Monday, January 31, 2005

What does 바야흐로 mean?

According to my dictionary, 바야흐로 has two meanings. Here is what my dictionary says:
1 [한창] at the height ; in full swing[operation]; [바로] just; really; truly. ¶ 바야흐로 봄이다 Spring is really here./We are now in the midst of spring. 바야흐로 딸기철이다 Strawberries are now in season. 가보니 바야흐로 싸움이 한창이었다 I found them at the height of quarrel.

2 [이제 곧] about to ; on the point[brink/verge] of ; almost; nearly. ¶ 해가 바야흐로 지려고 하고 있다 The sun is about to sink[set]. 꽃봉오리가 바야흐로 벌어지려고 한다 The buds are just ready to burst. 바야흐로 승리를 위해 나아갈 순간이다 This is the moment to go for victory.
I do not like this word because it is too long and sounds foreign in orgin. In fact, the "로" at the end of the word reminds be of Japanese, for some reason. I have tried to find information on the orgin of this word, but have been unsuccessful. The only thing I can say about it is that when it is used to mean "be about to," it is almost always followed by the "-려 하다" ending.

If anyone has any information on the orgin of this word, I would be interested to hear it.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

What are the 7 basic Korean sentence patterns?

I am reading a book that claims there are seven basic Korean sentence patterns. Those patterns are as follows:

  1. 주어 + 완전 자동사

    지구가 돈다.
    아이들이 논다.
    물이 흐른다.
    꽃이 핀다.
    짐승들이 모인다.

  2. 주어 + 보어 + 불완전 자동사

    시골이 도시가 된다.
    물이 얼음이 된다.
    철수가 의사가 된다.

  3. 주어 + 목적어 + 타동사

    아이가 젖을 먹는다.
    학생이 노래를 부른다.
    사람이 소를 부린다.

  4. 주어 + 여(탈)격 조사 + 목적어 + 불완전 타동사

    형이 아우에게 책을 준다.
    아우가 형에게서책을 받는다.
    스승이 제자에게 은혜를 베푼다.
    제자가 스승께 은혜를 갚는다.

  5. 주어 + 완전 형용사

    경치가 아름답다.
    산이 높다.
    곰은 미련하다.
    소금은 짜다.

  6. 주어 + 보어 + 불완전 형용사

    세균은 동물이 아니다.
    그 괴한이 도둑임이 틀림없다.
    갑이 을보다 낫다.
    을이 갑만 못하다.

  7. 주어 + (체언 + 서술격 조사)

    이것은 꽃이다.
    저것은 나무다.

Here is what the author had to say about the above patterns:

이와 같은 일곱 유형에 종결 · 연결 · 전성(轉成)의 서법(敍法)과, 사동 · 피동의 태(態), 과거 · 과거 회상 · 현재 · 미래의 시제(時制), 다양한 수식법과 우리말의 특유한 존대법을 적절히 적용하면 아무리 복잡하고 다양한 생각도 완벽하게 표현할 수 있다. 이를 잘 익혀 바르게 쓰지 못하고 섣불리 외국어 표현 형식을 흉내 내서 우리말의 우수한 특성을 해치는 짓은 하지 말자.

If we add to the above seven patterns the appropriate endings, conjunctions, or derivatives of mood; causative or passive voice; past, reflective, present, or future tense; any of the various modifiers and the special honorifics used in our language, then we can fully express any of a variety of thoughts, no matter how complicated. Let's become familiar with these patterns and use them correctly, and stop degrading the superior aspects of our language by carelessly imitating the styles of expressions used in foreign languages.

Why have I mentioned the seven basic sentence patterns? Well, I was planning to talk about the following sentence, but have decided to put it off for another time:
나는 어머니보다도 그녀와 같이 다니는 것이 더욱 즐거웠다.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Who is Stephen Revere?

Stephen Revere is one of the hosts of the Arirang TV program, "Let's Speak Korean," Besides being a TV celebrity here in Korea, Stephen has made a name for himself by being the first foreigner (white foreigner?) to receive a master's degree in "Korean Language Education" in Korea. Actually, I think his degree was in "Teaching Korean as a Second Language."

Anyway, tonight, MBC News did a report on Stephen, who has recently published a Korean language textbook for foreigners. If you would like to see the MBC News report, it is right here.

Wow! In front of the camera, Stephen is like a fish in water.

Congratulations, Stephen.

What does 등에 업다 mean?

I came across this long, complicated sentence today, and noticed an expression that I find a little strange. Focus on the part in red.
평론가들의 번지르르한 평을 등에 업고 서점에서 선량한 독자를 유혹하고 있는 수많은 소설과 수필을 보면서 가끔 우리 작가와 평론가들이 독자들을 상대로 부정직한 노름을 하고 있다는 생각을 한다.

Looking in the bookstores at all the novels and essays using the glowing praises of book reviewers to seduce naive readers, I sometimes think that the authors and book reviewers are in cahoots to deal readers a dirty hand.
등에 업다 means "to carry (a person, a pack, etc.) on one's back." One idiomatic meaning of this expression is "to rely on a person's authority, influence, or power." The above quote is using the idiomatic meaning of the expression to say that the authors are relying on the influence of the book reviewers to sell their books.

Okay. I understand the idiomatic meaning of 등에 업다, but does it really make sense? Think about it for a second. The authors are carrying the praises of the book reviewers on their backs. In other words, the authors are the ones carrying the burden, not the book reviewers, right? So if the authors are carrying the burden, wouldn't it be the book reviewers who are relying on the authors, not vice versa?

Okay, so what is my point? Well, I do not have a point, except to say that I find the idiom a little strange.

By the way, the idiom 등에 업다 means the same as 등대다.

Friday, January 28, 2005

What does 놀려 먹는다 mean?

Today, I came across the following expression:


"아이들이 그를 병신이라고 놀려 먹는다. "

The sentence caught my attention because 놀려 먹는다 just seemed a little strange for some reason. I think I have probably heard the expression before, but it still seemed strange. However, one expression I have heard quite often is, 잊어 먹었다, which means, "I completely forgot."

When the ending, 어/아/여 먹다, is attached to a verb stem, it emphasizes the action of the verb. Therefore, one translation of the above sentence might be as follows:

"The children mercilessly tease him, calling him a 'freak.'"
In the above sentence, I used the adverb, "mercilessly," to translate 어 먹는다.

By the way, the expression 잊어 버렸다 means the same as 잊어 먹었다, but 잊어 버렸다 is considered more refined. The ending, 어 먹는다, is considered somewhat crude.

---------------------- Update 1 -------------------------

I am wondering if the above sentence can also be translated as follows?
"The children tease him by calling him 'stupid,' and then eat him."
---------------------- Update 2 ------------------------

If I really wanted to say, without confusion, that "the children eat the guy," I would have to rewrite the Korean as follows:
아이들이 그를 병신이라고 놀려 먹는다
Notice that I added a to 어 to avoid confusing it with the auxillary connector 어. The phrase 놀려서 먹는다 means "tease and then eat," but the phrase 놀려 먹는다 means, "tease [excessively]."

Always include the 서 with the conjuction 어/아/여(서) to avoid any confusion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What does "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다 mean?

Which of the following is the more accurate translation of "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다"?
  1. "It is almost 6 o'clock."
    .
  2. "I think it is almost 6 o'clock."

The answer is Sentence 2.

The pre-final ending -겠 is used to express either one's conjecture or one's volition. If you use it to talk about someone or something else, you are expressing conjecture. If you use it to talk about yourself, you are expressing volition.

In the sentence, "곧 여섯 시가 되겠다," the speaker is talking about "the time," not about him- or herself, which means the speaker is using -겠 to express conjecture. In other words, the speaker is simply guessing (conjecture) at the time. If the speaker had known the time, he should have said one of the following:
  • 곧 여섯 시가 된다.
    .
  • 곧 여섯 시가 될 것이다.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

What does 바람이 분다 mean?

Which of the following would you use to translate "The wind is blowing hard?
  1. 바람이 몹시 분다?
    .
  2. 바람이 몹시 불고 있다?

Sentence 1 is written in the present tense, and Sentence 2 is written in what could be called the present continuous tense. Since the English sentence is written in the present continuous, one might expect Sentence 2 to be the correct translation, but, in Korean, the present tense can often be used to refer to present continuous, too. In fact, many Koreans might say that Sentence 1 is more natural.

The verb 불다 normally implies a continuing action. In other words, the wind does not just blow a puff and then stop, but continues to blow for a certain period of time. Therefore, the Korean logic seems to be, "why add '고 있' if you do not have to since it is obviously a continuing action?"

Compare the following:

  • 지금 잔다.
    지금 자고 있다.
    .
  • 지금 운다.
    지금 울고 있다.

Like 불다, 자다 and 울다 are actions that continue over a period of time, not just an instant; therefore, there is no need to use "고 있" with these verbs when explaining an action that is currently happening, especially when 지금 is also used.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

What does 구태여 mean?

Some Korean words do not flow off my lips very easily. One such word is 구태여, which is an adverb meaning "intentionally; on purpose" or "especially; particularly." Actually, since this word is used only with negative sentences or in questions expressing doubt, better translations might be "not really on purpose" or "not especially."

Here are some example sentences and their translations from my dictionary:
  • 그 모임에 구태여 출석할 필요는 없다.
    You need not bother to attend the meeting.
    .
  • 구태여 반대하지는 않겠다.
    I have no particular objection to it.
    .
  • 구태여 그녀에게 병문안하러 가지 않아도 된다.
    You need not take the trouble to inquire after her health.

My dictionary says that 일부러 or 특별히 can [usually] be used instead of 구태여, and I hear 일부러 and 특별히 all the time, but I do not think I have ever heard 구태여 used in conversation. In written Korean, however, 구태여 pops up all the time. In fact, tonight the word has popped up at least 10 times in a book I am reading, which, by the way, is what prompted me to make this quick post.

Finally, look at the last example sentence I listed. When the adverb is that far away from the verb, there is just something about the sentence that does not seem right. In such cases, this adverb, and others too, seems more like a filler word than an adverb.

Monday, January 17, 2005

What does 기상천외 mean?

기상천외(奇想天外) literally means "strange ideas from beyond the heavens." It is often used in the form of 기상천외의 to mean "most fantastic." Here is the example sentence from my dictionary:

그것은 기상 천외의 생각이다.
It is a most unexpected idea.

The Korean example sentence seems redundant since 기상천외 already includes the meaning "생각" (想). Why not simply say the following?
그것은 기상 천외이다.
The Korean definition for 기상천외 is "아주 기발하거나 엉뚱한 것," which, as you may notice, does not mention anything about 생각. Since 생각 is not mentioned in the Korean definition, it would probably be prudent to use my dictionary's example sentence instead of the one I suggested above.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What does 사발농사 mean?

사발농사(沙鉢農事) literally means "farming in a china 'rice' bowl." 사발 means "china bowl," and 농사 means "farmiing." This expression is used to mean "begging." Buddhist monks and others used to carry a bowl with them to beg for rice.

I posted the expression because I think it is clever.

Friday, January 07, 2005

What does 다반사 mean?

다반사(茶飯事) means "an everyday occurence; a daily event." It is an abbreviation of 항다반사(恒茶飯事), which literally means, "an incident as common as tea and rice." In other words, 다반사 is used to refer to something that occurs as frequently as "drinking tea" and "eating rice," which is something people in Korea and other places do everyday.

Some Koreans precede 다반사 with "일상" or "일상의," which means "daily." However, since 다반사 already has "daily" in its meaning, the expression "일상의 다반사" is redundant. Use 다반사 without 일상.

Here is an example sentence from my dictionary:

요즈음 살인 사건이 다반사로 일어난다.
Murders are daily events these days.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

What's so special about "좋다"?

좋다 (good) is the only Korean adjective that does not drop its "ㅎ" in front of endings that begin with vowels, "ㄴ", or "ㅁ." Consider the following examples:
  • 좋아요 (not 조아요)
  • 좋은 책 (not 존 책)
  • 좋으니까 (not 조니까
  • 좋네 (not 조네)
  • 좋으면 (not 조면)

In contrast to 좋다, look what happens to other adjectives with a stem ending in "ㅎ" when they are followed by an ending starting with a vowel, "ㄴ," or "ㅁ."

  • 그렇다 (so; like that) 그래요; 그런 것; 그러니까; 그러네; 그러면
  • 까맣다 (black) 까매요; 까만 옷; 까마니까; 까마네; 까마면
  • 노랗다 (yellow) 노래요; 노란 꽃; 노라니까; 노라네; 노라면
  • 동그랗다 (round) 동그래요; 동그란 것; 동그라니까; 동그라네; 동그라면
  • 빨갛다 (red) 빨개요; 빨간 차; 빨가니까; 빨가네; 빨가면
  • 파랗다 (blue) 파래요; 파란 눈; 파라니까; 파라네; 파라면
  • 하얗다 (white) 하얘요; 하얀 눈; 하야니까; 하야네; 하야면

Unlike adjectives, verbs do not drop the "ㅎ" in front of vowels, "ㄴ," or "ㅁ." See the example:

  • 낳다 (give birth) 낳아요; 낳은 자식; 낳으니까; 낳네; 낳으면

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What does 돗대 mean?

The last cigarette (담배) in a pack can be referred to as 돗대 or 돛대. I am not a smoker, but I understand that a smoker puts a lot of value on his or her last cigarette. Consider the following expression:

"돗대는 아버지에게도 안 준다."
I would not give my last cigarette to even my father.

Though the above expression is meant to be humorous, it still shows how dear a 돗대 is to a smoker.

Here are a few other 담배 related terms:

  • 한 개비 (대) one cigarette
  • 한 갑 a pack (20) of cigarettes
  • 한 포 (보루) a carton of cigarettes
  • 잎담배 leaf tobacco
  • 살담배 pipe tobacco
  • 씹는 담배 chewing tobacco
  • 코담배 snuff
  • 담배 쌈지 a tobacco pouch
  • 담뱃갑 a cigarette case

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

What does 는개 mean?

The Korean language has several words to describe rain based on the size of the droplets, the time of the year, and how long the rain lasts. Here are some lists of rain vocabulary:

Rain Based on Droplet Size (starting with the smallest)
  • 안개비 a hazy rain
  • 는개 a misty rain
  • 이슬비 a foggy rain
  • 보슬비 a soft, windless drizzle
  • 부슬비 (a little heavier than 보슬비)
  • 가랑비 a drizzle
  • 실비 a fine rain
  • 억수 a downpour; a pouring rain
  • 장대비 a downpour of thick streaks of rain
  • 작달비 a downpour of thick drops of rain

Rain Related to Farming

  • 단비 (lit. "sweet rain") rain that comes when it is most welcome
  • 약비 (lit. "medicine rain") rain desperately needed by farmers
  • 모종비 a timely rain for transplanting seedlings
  • 목비 rain that comes when one is ready to transplant rice seedlings
  • 못비 a sufficient rain for rice transplantation

Other Kinds of Rain

  • 여우비 (lit. "fox rain") a sun shower (a brief shower that occurs while the sun is shinning)
  • 해비 a sun shower while the sun is low on the horizon
  • 봄비 spring rain (shower)
  • 소나기 a sudden shower
  • 채찍비 lashing rain
  • 오락가락하는 비 intermittent rain
  • 궂은비 a long, nasty rain

Sunday, January 02, 2005

What does 을유년 mean?

2005 is the "Year of the Chicken," which is translated in Korean as "닭의 해." However, Koreans also call this year, 을유년(乙酉年). Though the "year of the chicken" will come around again in twelve years, 을유년 will not recycle for another sixty years. Here is the reason.

Koreans traditionally name a new year by combining one of ten "heavenly stems" (天干 - 천간) with one of twelve "earthly branches" (地支 - 지지). The heavenly stems represent the ten mythical suns that take turns warming the earth while the "earthly branches" represent the twelve moons of the year, which happen to be named after animals. This naming system is called 간지(干支), "stems & branches." Here is a list of the 간지.

Heavenly Stems (천간)
  1. 갑 (甲)
  2. 을 (乙)
  3. 병 (丙)
  4. 정 (丁)
  5. 무 (戊)
  6. 기 (己)
  7. 경 (庚)
  8. 신 (辛)
  9. 임 (壬)
  10. 계 (癸)

Earthly Branches (지지)

  1. 자 (子) - 쥐 rat
  2. 축 (丑) - 소 cow
  3. 인 (寅) - 범 tiger
  4. 묘 (卯) - 토끼 rabbit
  5. 진 (辰) - 용 dragon
  6. 사 (巳) - 뱀 snake
  7. 오 (午) - 말 horse
  8. 미 (未) - 양 sheep
  9. 신 (申) - 원숭이 monkey
  10. 유 (酉) - 닭 chicken
  11. 술 (戌) - 개 dog
  12. 해 (亥) - 돼지 pig

In the Korean year-naming system, one "heavenly stem" is combined with one "earthly branch." The "heavenly stem" comes first. For example, the name for 2005 is 을유년. 을 is the "stem," 유 is the "branch," and 년 is the Korean word for "year." If you want to learn the naming system, you must first memorize the two lists since the stems and branches must be combined in the sequential order of their specific lists.

Below is the list of the sixty combinations in a sixty year cycle.

The 60 간지 Combinations (also know as 60 갑자)

갑자(甲子), 을축(乙丑), 병인(丙寅), 정묘(丁卯), 무진(戊辰), 기사(己巳), 경오(庚午), 신미(辛未), 임신(壬申), 계유(癸酉), 갑술(甲戌), 을해(乙亥), 병자(丙子), 정축(丁丑), 무인(戊寅), 기묘(己卯), 경진(庚辰), 신사(辛巳), 임오(壬午), 계미(癸未), 갑신(甲申), 을유(乙酉), 병술(丙戌), 정해(丁亥), 무자(戊子), 기축(己丑), 경인(庚寅), 신묘(辛卯), 임진(壬辰), 계사(癸巳), 갑오(甲午), 을미(乙未), 병신(丙申), 정유(丁酉), 무술(戊戌), 기해(己亥), 경자(庚子), 신축(辛丑), 임인(壬寅), 계묘(癸卯), 갑진(甲辰), 을사(乙巳), 병오(丙午), 정미(丁未), 무신(戊申), 기유(己酉), 경술(庚戌), 신해(辛亥), 임자(壬子), 계축(癸丑), 갑인(甲寅), 을묘(乙卯), 병진(丙辰), 정사(丁巳), 무오(戊午), 기미(己未), 경신(庚申), 신유(辛酉), 임술(壬戌), 계해(癸亥)

Notice that the first combination in the above list is "갑자(甲子)," which is a combination of the first character in the "heavenly stem" list and the first character in the "earthly branch" list. The second combination is 을축(乙丑), which is the second character in the "heavenly stem" list and the second character in the "earthly branch" list. The sequential pairing continues until one reaches the bottom of a list, at which point one returns to the top of of the list and continues.

Since the "heavenly stem" list has ten characters, and the "earthly branch" list has twelve, the two lists will get out of sequence after the first pairing cycle. For example, when the "heavenly stem" list recycles back to number one, 갑(甲), the "earthly branches" list will be continuing on to number eleven, 술(戌). Therefore, the eleventh pairing in the 60-combination list is 갑술(甲戌). The combinations in red show where the "heavenly branch" list recycles back to 갑(甲). The recycling in both lists continues until the lists recycle all the way back to the beginning combination, 갑자(甲子), which occurs after sixty combinations.

In Korean culture, this sixty-year cycle symbolizes one lifetime. If a Korean lives long enough to return to the beginning of his life cycle, his family and friends usually celebrate it with a banquet known as 환갑 잔치, which literally means "The Returning to "kap" Banquet."

If you are like me, you may have asked yourself, "Shouldn't there be 120 combinations of 'stems' and 'branches' instead of only sixty since 10 stems times 12 branches equals 120?" Well, the answer is "no," and here is the reason.

First, ask yourself this question. How many combinations would there be if there were an equal number of stems and branches, for example, ten each? The answer is "ten combinations." The reason is that after each list reached number ten, they would both recycle, in sequence, back to number one, returning to the same beginning combination and ending the cycle. However, when there are ten stems and twelve branches, the two lists will get out of sync after the first cycle because when the ten-stem list recycles back to number one, the twelve-branch list continues to number eleven, creating a 1-11 combintion. The next combination will be a 2-12 combination, after which the branch-list also recycles back to 1, meaning the next combination is a 3-1 combination. At this point the two lists are two characters out of sync. When the longer branch list recycles a second time, the two lists will then be four characters out of sync (a 5-1 combination). This pattern continues until the two lists finally recycle back to the beginniing combination (1-1).

Because the difference in length between the two lists is an even number (two characters), the number combinations will always be either even-even or odd-odd, never odd-even. This results in there only being sixty combinations instead of 120.

If you are wondering how you will ever learn all the different combinations, stop wondering because you do not have to. Here is a trick that can help you figure out the combinations.

Since there are ten "heavenly stems," the same stem will always correspond to the same last number in a year. For example, any year that ends with "4" (e.g. 2004) will always begin with 갑, and any year that ends with "5" (e.g. 2005) will begin with 을, the second character in the sequence. If you know the sequence of the ten "heavenly stems", then it should be easy to remember the first character of any year. And if you know the sequence of the "earthly branches," together with the earthly branch you were born under, you can add or subtract in multiples of twelve to figure out the second character. Just use your birthday as the starting point. For example, I know that the 간지 name for 1967 is 정미년 because, first of all, any year that ends in 7 always starts with 정, and, second of all, 1967 is twelve years ahead of 1955, which was "the year of the sheep"(미) and also the year I was born.

Why bother learning the 간지 naming system? Well, if you are a student of Korean history, it can help you remember the names and dates of historic Korean events since Koreans often refer to such events by the name of the year it happened. The following historic events are just a few examples. There are many more.

  • 임진왜란 (***2)
  • 신미양요 (***1)
  • 갑신정변 (***4)
  • 갑오개혁 (***4)
  • 을미사변 (***5)
  • 을사조약 (***5)

What does 효(孝) mean?

효(孝) means "filial piety" or "filial duty." In other words, 효 means to honor and serve one's parents. The Chinese character for 효 is a combination of 노(老), which means "old," and 자(子), which means "son." The character symbolizes a son carrying an elderly parent on his back. Transporting an elderly parent on one's back was once considered a typical act of filial piety in Korea and other Asian countries.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

What does 임 mean?

Here is how my dictionary defines "임."
임[연인] a lover(남자); a sweetheart(여자). ¶ 옛임 <俗> one's old flame. 임 그리운 마음 a heart pining for an absent love. 임을 그리워하다 miss one's love.
As you can see, my dictionary defines 임 as "lover" or "sweetheart." However, something important is missing in the English definitions. A clue to what is missing can be found in the example phrases that follow the definitions (i.e. 임 그리운 마음; 임을 그리워하다).

In case you did not find the clue in the above sample phrases, here is the Korean definition:
사랑하고 그리워하는 사람, 또는 그러한 대상. ¶ ~ 생각. 그리운 ~.
A translation of the Korean definition is "a person you love and long for." Notice the phrase, "long for"? That means 임 is referring to an " absent lover" or "absent sweetheart." Therefore, you cannot take your girlfriend to a friend's party and introduce her as your "임."

Actually, I do not think I have ever heard "임" used in conversation, but I have seen it in Korean poetry, which makes sense since people often write poems about "absent lovers." However, if you want to write about your absent lover, be careful not to make the same mistake some Koreas make by referring to him or her as "님."

Though 님 was once used a long, long time ago to mean "absent lover," 임 is used these days. Today, 님 is used as an honorific suffix with a meaning similar to "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" or "Madam." It can also be attached to certain titles.

The following is a link to a pretty good site of Korean poetry: 한국 현대시