Friday, December 31, 2004

What does 등골 mean?

등골 has basically two meanings. One is " the furrow of the back," and the other is "the spinal cord (marrow)." 등 means "back," and 골 can mean either "furrow" or "marrow." One needs to consider the context of the sentence to know which meaning is being referred to. In the case of idioms, however, the context can sometimes be a little vague. Therefore, I have listed the following idioms under the 등골 meaning they are referring to.

등골 (the furrow of the back)
  • 등골이 서늘하다 feel a cold shiver run down one's back (as when frightened)
    .
  • 등골이 오싹하다 feel a cold chill down one's back (as when frightened)

등골 (the spinal cord marrow)

  • 등골이 빠지다 suffer extremely; have a very hard time of it (ex. 등골이 빠지는 일 a laborious task)
    .
  • 등골을 뽑다 squeeze (wring / extort) money out of a person; exploit; fleece a person (of his money)

등골 is pronounced as / 등꼴 /

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

What does 오줌 가리다 mean?

I have been studying Korean for a long time, but there are still some fairly simple expressions that I have either overlooked or forgotten. 오줌을 가리다 seems to be one of them.

This morning I must have been bored because I decided I wanted to make a dictionary of the 2,000 most frequently used words in Korean. Actually, it would not be that difficult since I already have a book that lists them, but my philosophy is, "Don't retype something if you don't have to." Anyway, with that spiritually enlightening philosophy in mind, I did a Google search, hoping to find my list on the Internet. I did not find it, but I found a list of "words every Korean middle school student should know." I link to the list because I think they are also words that every foreign student of Korean should know. By the way, if you go to the site, you can choose among lists for middle school, high school, and college students.

I was looking through the middle-school level word list when I decided to click on the verb, 가리다, which means "to pick out" or "to discriminate (between)." I knew the general meaning of the word, but I wanted to look at some of the other ways in which it is used. Among the example sentences listed, I noticed the sentence 아이가 오줌을 가리다, which means, "A child knows how to go to the toilet by him- or herself."

I was surprised that this expression seemed new to me. I thought I must have surely learned the word for "potty-trained" sometime over the past twenty-nine years, but I just could not remember it. My revelation concerning the Korean word for "potty-trained" made me wonder how many other Korean words I have learned, then forgotten, relearned, and then forgotten, again. Over the past twenty-nine years, I am sure I have gone through the Korean dictionary at least two or three times, but judging from my limited vocabulary, no one would ever suspect it.

Since I am talking about 오줌, it might be helpful for some to mentioned the difference between 오줌을 누다 and 오줌을 싸다. The difference has to do with "control." One uses 누다 when one is in control of one's peeing, and uses 싸다 when one is not. In other words, if you want to tell someone you took a pee, you should say 오줌을 누었다, not 오줌을 쌌다. If you say 오줌을 쌌다, the person you are speaking to may make a face and then look at your pants to see if they are wet. The difference in meaning between 누다 and 싸다 also applies to "number two."

Here are a few other 오줌 related words:

  • 오줌싸개 a bed wetter
  • 오줌을 지리다 be incontinent; lose control of one's bodily functions
  • 오줌을 참다 hold one's water
  • 오줌이 마렵다 have an urge to urinate
  • 오줌통 the bladder

I was going to add 오줌버캐 to the list, but decided that most of us can probably go through our entire lives without the topic of "urine incrustations" coming up in conversation with our Korean friends.

Monday, December 27, 2004

What does 감질나다 mean?

감질(疳疾)나다 means "to feel unsatified" or "to be tantalized." In other words, it means to be tortured with desire for or to be tantalized by something (one cannot have or cannot get enough of). For example, a puff of your cigarette would probably not be enough to satisfy a friend trying to break a smoking habit. On the contrary, it would probably fill him or her with more desire for a cigarette. The fact that the Chinese characters for 감질(疳疾) both include the radical 疒, which means "to be sick," gives one a clue to how strong the desire can be.

When Koreans want to express temptation or desire, they often use 감질나게. I guess it could be translated as "tantalizingly" or "seductively." Probably the best way to learn its use is to do a Google search. Here are a few of my search results:
  • 콘텐츠 유료화 성공을 위해선 무료 회원들을 어떻게 유료 회원으로 끌어 들이느냐도 중요하다고 생각돼 무료 회원들을 ‘감질’나게 하기 위해 어떤 전략을 취하고 있느냐고 질문했다. 여기에 대해 마케팅 플랜팀의 권성일 팀장과 진유경씨는 다음과 같이 입을 모은다.
    .
  • 언니~~하루에 그렇게 감질나게 빠지고 있다는건 아주 언니가 건강하게 제대로 다욧트 하시고 계시다는 증거입니다!! 하루에 백그람씩만 감량되어도 한달이면 삼킬로감량이죠!! 엄청난거죠~
    .
  • 아슬아슬 감질나게 애태우기는 키스와 섹스의 기본. 기다렸다는 듯이 덥석 그의 입술을 빼앗는다면 키스의 감흥은 그리 오래 가지 않는다. 그가 최대한 달아오르도록 감질나게 만들 필요가 있다. 입술을 닿을 듯 말 듯 가져간 후 그에게 살짝 입김을 불어본다.
    .
  • 가끔은 감질나게 글을 올려야 재미가 있거든요.

What does 혼났죠 mean?

December 21 was 동지(冬至), known in English as the "winter solstice," the shortest day of the year. For many Koreans, 동지 marks the beginning of a new year because it is the day the sun begins recovering its strength after months of declining health. In fact, 동지 is also know as 작은 설, the "little new year day." This helps explain why Koreans give calendars as gifts on this day.

On 동지, it is customary to eat 밭죽 (red bean porridge), which is supposed to help drive away evil spirits. Supposedly, the spirits do not like the red color of the beans. It is also said that one must eat 밭죽 in order to age another year. At first I was not sure if this was good or bad, but then I realized that it is much better than the price one must pay for not aging another year.

Many Koreans also visit temples on 동지. In fact, I went to a temple with a girlfriend and her mother, who is a fairly famous guru (도사). Actually, it was not really a temple, but whether a set of small altars on a fairly unimpressive hillside. Here is a brief description of my trip.

We went to a place known as 대관령 국사성황당, which seems to be a place that mixes Buddhism with shamanism. There were no big temples here, just five small altars, three of which were protected by small shelters. We prayed at all of them.

We started at 성황당, which is dedicated to the god that protects the area (터의 수호신). I do not exactly know why, but the spirit of one of my girlfriend's relatives, 이항복, is also supposed to reside around this alter. 이항복 was a famous minister during the Chosun dynasty. My girlfriend's mother is supposed to have the ability to communicate with him and receive warnings and advice about the future from him. In fact, I was asked to sit by my friend's mother while she chanted, so that she could tell me about my future at different intervals during the chant. I received a few warnings and learned that my fortune would change for the better in three years. I am not sure, but I think my good fortune was conditioned on whether or not I married her daughter. Hmmmm.....

After 성황당, we moved to 용왕당, which is an open altar dedicated to 용왕님, "the Dragon King." At this altar, one is supposed to light a candle, burn some incense, and offer the Dragon King a bowl of fresh water drawn for the nearby well. I asked why this altar was not protected by a structure and was told that the Dragon King lives in the water and needs no structure.

Next to the Dragon King Altar was 칠성당, "the Big Dipper Altar." This altar was also open because the ancestral spirits to which this altar is dedicated reside in the large tree next to the altar.

After 칠성당, we went to 관음사, which is a Buddhist altar. The structure that housed this altar is bigger than the rest, but not really that big. I do not know much about this altar, except that it is more traditionally Buddhist. We just lit a candle, burned incense, and bowed three times.

The last altar we visited was 산신당, "the Mountain God Altar." I do not know much about this altar either, but I understand that the 산신 likes to travel on the back of a tiger. In fact, another name for "tiger" is 산신.

By the time we dropped my girlfriend's mother off at her house, it was dark, and I think everyone was tired and hungry. As we parted, my girlfriend's mother asked me, "혼났지요? I was confused by the question because I understood 혼나다 to mean "be scolded." Without really knowing what she meant, I answered, "No." It was not until later, when I got home and looked up the word, that I found out that 혼나다 can also mean "have a hard time." My friend's mother was trying to say, "You had a rough time today, didn't you?" which is a polite Korean expression of gratitude or sympathy.


Friday, December 24, 2004

What does 젖가슴띠 mean?

젖 is "mother's milk," but it is also used to refer to the breast that gives the milk. To help distinguish between the "milk" and the "breast," Koreans usually say 젖가슴 (유방) to refer to the "breast." 젖가슴 is a combination of 젖 and 가슴, which means "chest." Actually, even though 젖가슴 and 유방 are proper terms for a woman's breast, many South Koreans feel uncomfortable saying them and instead use 가슴 as a kind of a euphemism.

North Koreans do not seem to be as shy as South Koreans are about using 젖가슴. For example, the North Korean word for brassiere is 젖가슴띠, which literally means, "breast belt." South Koreans say 브래지어, which is just the Koreanized version of brassiere.

Here are some other words with the word 젖 in them:

젖꼭지 (breast) nipple
젖꽃판 an areola
젖니 a (milk) baby tooth
젖떼기 a child or animal of weaning age
젖떼다 wean
젖먹이 a nursing baby
젖몸살 mastitis
젖병 a baby bottle
젖빌다 pray that one produces mother's milk
젖빛 milk white
젖빛 유리 frosted glass
젖산 lactic acid
젖샘 the mammary gland
젖소 a milk cow
젖어머니 (유모) a wet nurse
젖통 a boob (vulgar); 젖통이 크다 (She has big boobs.)

What does 뒷구멍 mean?

뒷구멍으로 호박씨 깐다 is a popular Korean expression that is used to refer to someone who pretends to be innocent but is really conniving. Although I have heard this expression used many times and have known how it is used, it was only recently that I took the time to confirm its literal meaning, which I thought I knew, but am no longer sure. Here is the story "behind" the expression:

A long time ago, there is a poor scholar who spends all of his time studying the Chinese classics while his wife struggles alone to make ends meet. One day the scholar returns home unexpectedly from an outing. When he walks into the house, he sees his wife quickly hide something behind her "butt." Thinking that she may be hiding food from him, he demands that she show him what she is hiding. The wife starts crying and says that she is hiding a pumpkin seed (호박씨) that she had found on the ground. She says that she was so hungry that she had tried to eat it but found it to be nothing but an empty shell (쭉정이). After her husband hears her story, he is speechless. He walks over to his wife, hugs her, and starts crying, too.

If you would like to read the above story in Korean, you can find it here.

The story may be the origin of 뒷구멍으로 호박씨 깐다, but the modern meaning of the expression would not describe the wife in this sad story. The wife was not really deceitful, just hungry and ashamed.

The literal meaing of 뒷구멍으로 호박씨 깐다 is "hull a pumpkin seed with the back hole." I always thought that "back hole" was referring to the "rectum," and maybe it is, but when I finally looked up 뒷구멍, I found that it also means "by unjust (unlawful) means." For example, 뒷구멍으로 돈을 주다 means "bribe a person with money." I will let you choose your own translation of the expression.

Also, in the Korean version of the story you will find the expression 빈 쭉정이, which means "an empty head of grain." Actually, 빈 means "empty" and 쭉정이 means "empty head of grain." Notice that "empty" appears twice, which means 빈 is redundant since 쭉정이 already means "an empty head of grain."

In case anyone is interested, I had never heard of the word, 쭉정이, until I read the above story.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

What does 할푼리 mean?

할푼리 is a term used in Korean baseball to refer to a batting average. Here is how it works.

A baseball "batting average" (타격률 or 타율) is the percentage of a player's "base hits" (안타) to times "at bat" (타석 batter's box). It is calculated by dividing the number of base hits by the number of at bats. For example, if a batter goes to bat three times and gets one base hit, his batting average would be 1/3 = 0.333, which is a percentage expressed in decimals. Koreans refer to the first decimal place as 할, the second as 푼, and the third as 리; therefore, 0.333 could be written as 3할 3푼 3리.

할푼리 is pronounced / 할풀리 /.