Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who is 짠짜라?

I think 짠짜라 comes from this word, 짠하다? Watch the following music animation and see what you think:

짠짜라

Here is another version of 짠짜라. I think this one was filmed in Incheon in a park near the bus terminal.

Update: Here is the music video for 짠짜라.

Here is another video with questionable linguistic value: Bin 2 A.M.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What is a 칠엽수(七葉樹)?

Tonight, I wanted to get out of my apartment to get some fresh air and exercise, so I decided to walk to my school. The walk takes about a hour and 15 minutes and passes through a few parks. In one of the parks I noticed a tree with a sign on it. I walked over and read the sign. It said the name of the tree was a 칠엽수. There was no English name, just the Korean name, a description, and the Latin name.

I started thinking about the Korean name, 칠엽수, and realized that it probably meant "seven leaf tree," so I looked up at the leaves still on the tree. Guess what? There were seven leaves to a stem. Here is a picture of a leaf from a 칠엽수.

I am at school now and looked up the English name for 칠엽수(七葉樹) on the Forest Korea Web site. The English name is "Japanese horse chestnut," which seems like a pretty good name. It is also called a "buckeye." Of course, none of those names describe the tree nearly as well as the Korean name, 칠엽수.

Here are the Chinese characters for 칠엽수(七葉樹):

  • 七(칠) seven
  • 葉(엽) leaf
  • 樹(수) tree

Know of any silly, off-color cartoons?


엽기적인 가족



스님과 목사님


싸가지 삼형제


유언


토끼와 당근


아가씨와 앵무새


김밥과 도너츠


그들은 용감했다


빌게이츠와 외계인


천국과 지옥


저 여기서 내려요


표백제


일본인 관광객


이름 때문에


착각


황당한 소설 제목


슬픔, 분노, 쇼킹 1


슬픔, 분노, 쇼킹 2


슬픔, 분노, 쇼킹 3


초보 남편 일기


못말리는 바람둥이


지하철에서 사이코로 낙인 찍히는 방법


교통사고


바보 삼총사


군대식


조폭과 아가씨


고참과 이등병


아기들의 비애


백설공주와 팅커벨


국회의원과 도둑


아둥 아둥


모든 비밀


무서운 이야기

I got them from this site.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Want to test your Korean writing skills?

Here is a link to a page of 108 questions that test your vocabulary, grammar, and spelling skills. The test will give you immediate feedback when you select an answer. A dialog box will pop up saying whether your answer is "정답입니다" or "정답이 아닙니다." It will also explain why the answer is right or wrong. Be careful not to confuse the "right answer" box and the "wrong answer" box because they look exactly the same, except for the words "정답입니다" and "정답이 아닙니다."

I have not finished the test, yet. I am only at Question 14, where I made my first mistake. It is not an easy test. I have only missed one so far, but I have been lucky, guessing at a couple of the answers along the way.

If anyone completes the test and would like to post your results, you can do it in the comments section of this post.

Good luck.

What does 말아먹다 mean?

말아먹다 means "to lose all of one's property." Here are some other compound verbs with 먹다:

The above are considered compound verbs because they are made from two verbs linked together, but there are also verb phrases like 씹어_먹다 that have not yet evolved into 1-word combinations, which means you will not find them listed in a Korean dictionary. Also, among the compound verbs, some can still be separated when the writer wants to apply the original meaning of 먹다 (to eat). Consider the two examples that follow:

  1. 남의 돈을 떼어먹고 달아났다.
    (He) cheated people out of their money and ran away.
    -
  2. 접시에 붙어 있는 엿을 억지로 떼어 먹었다.
    (He) peeled off the taffy stuck to the plate and ate it.

In the Sentence 1, 떼어먹다 is a compound verb that means "to cheat someone out of his or her money," which has nothing to do with "eating." In Sentence 2, 떼어_먹다 is a verb phrase that means "to peel off and eat."

Here is a list of verb phrases with 먹다. (The phrases in red can also be joined to form compound verbs:

  • 누워서 먹는다. lie down and eat
  • 서서 먹는다. stand and eat
  • 앉아서 먹는다. sit and eat
  • 쭈그리고 앉아서 먹는다. squat and eat
    -
  • 까 먹는다. peel and eat
  • 구워 먹는다. roast and eat
  • 끓여 먹는다. boil (liquid) and eat
  • 덥혀 먹는다. heat and eat
  • 떼어 먹는다. peel off and eat
  • 말려 먹는다. dry and eat
  • 쪄 먹는다. steam and eat
  • 볶아 먹는다. stir-fry and eat
  • 비벼 먹는다. mix and eat
  • 삶아 먹는다. boil (cook in boiling water) and eat
  • 싸 먹는다. wrap and eat
  • 씻어 먹는다. clean and eat
  • 튀겨 먹는다. deep-fry and eat
    -
  • 깨물어 먹는다. gnaw and eat
  • 뜯어 먹는다. bite off and eat
  • 빨아 먹는다. suck and eat
  • 씹어 먹는다. chew and eat
  • 핥아 먹는다. lick and eat
    -
  • 뒤져 먹는다. rummage and eat
  • 찾아 먹는다. find and eat
  • 훔쳐 먹는다. steal and eat
    -
  • 방바닥에 내려놓고 먹는다. eat on the floor
  • 손에 들고 먹는다. hold and eat

참고: 이익섭(2005), "한국어 문법," 서울대학교출판부, pp. 312-317

Friday, November 25, 2005

What does 찰방찰방 mean?

도랑물---------------by 權泰應(권태응)

고추밭에 갈 적에
건너는 도랑물

찰방찰방 맨발로
건너는 도랑물

木花밭에 갈 때도
건너는 도랑물

찰방찰방 고기 새끼
붙잡는 도랑물.

The Ditch Water-------------by Kwon Tae-eung

Going to the red pepper field,
I cross over the ditch water.

Splashing, splashing in my bare feet
I cross over the ditch water

Going to the cotton field too
I cross over the ditch water

Splashing, splashing baby fish
Caught inside the ditch water.

Is 던 better or 한?

Which of the two sentences would be correct?

  1. 하던 일을 마저 해 치우자.
  2. 한 일을 마저 해 치우자.

Sentence 1 is the correct sentence.

하던 일을 마저 해 치우자.
Let's finish the work we were doing.

Sentence 1 is correct because 던 can imply that the work was interrupted, whereas 한 implies that the work was completed, leaving nothing to finish.

Now let's consider the opposite situation. Which of the following two sentences would be correct?

  1. 여기가 내가 졸업하던 학교다.
  2. 여기가 내가 졸업한 학교다.

Sentence 2 is correct.

여기가 내가 졸업한 학교다.
This is the school I graduated from.

Sentence 2 is correct because the verb 졸업하다 means you "have completed your studies," so 한 is more appropriate here than 하던.

What's the difference between 깔기다 & 내깔기다?

(똥 /오줌) 깔기다 means to "relieve oneself indiscriminately; discharge (excrements) irrespective of place." 내깔기다 means the same thing, except that the 똥 and 오줌 are discharged with more force.

When 내 is attached to certain verbs, it adds the meaning "forced outwardly." Here are some examples:
  • 내갈기다
  • 내걷다
  • 내걸다
  • 내긋다
  • 내깔기다
  • 내놓다
  • 내닫다
  • 내대다
  • 내던지다
  • 내돋다
  • 내돌리다
  • 내동댕이치다
  • 내두다
  • 내두르다
  • 내둘리다
  • 내디디다
  • 내떨다
  • 내뚫다
  • 내뛰다
  • 내맡기다
  • 내먹다
  • 내물리다
  • 내밀다
  • 내받다
  • 내발리다
  • 내뱉다
  • 내버리다
  • 내보내다
  • 내불다
  • 내빼다
  • 내빼오다
  • 내뻗다
  • 내뽑다
  • 내뿜다
  • 내솟다
  • 내쉬다
  • 내쌓다
  • 내쏘다
  • 내씹다
  • 내젓다
  • 내주다
  • 내쫓다
  • 내치다
  • 내팽개치다
  • 내퍼붓다
  • 내휘두르다
  • 내흔들다

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What good words are in "흥부와제비"?

Those of you who are not reading the stories on the Korean Lab Web site are ignoring an excellent study source. Do not take Korean children stories for granted; they are an great way to learn the language, and children stories introduced in a progressively more difficult series are even better.

Here is a list of words and expressions I noticed in "흥부와 제비," on the Korean Lab Web site:

Here is a working song that was in the story:

톱질하세, 톱질하세
슬근슬근 톱질하세
이 바가지 복(福)바가지
슬근슬근 톱질하세

Let's saw, let's saw
Gently, gently, let's saw
This gourd's a lucky gourd
Gently, gently, let's saw

What is a 단풍나무?

One of the prettiest fall trees in Korea is the Japanese maple, which Koreans call 단풍나무. Besides being the name for the Japanese maple, 단풍 is also a genus name for "maple trees." Actually, when Koreans refer to 단풍나무, they do not seem to be referring to any particular maple, but to maples in general, and some even seem to be using it as a general reference to "autumn leaves." I say this because Koreans describe "an excursion to view autumn leaves" as 단풍놀이. "

There are a few Japanese maples at the entrance of my school, which I noticed this morning while I was walking onto the campus. Out of curiosity, I asked the Korean gate guard what kind of trees they were. He told me they were 홍단풍나무. I checked the Forest Korea Web site, but found no such tree listed. The gate guard just seemed to be referring to the Japanese maples based on the color of their leaves. In Korean, 홍 means "red," which means it is redundant to add it to 단풍 since the "단" in 단풍 already means "red." As I mentioned above, I suspect that the gate guard may either be thinking of all maples as 단풍 or all trees with autumn colors as 단풍.

By the way, Koreans refer to a "sugar maple" as a 설탕단풍나무, and a "silver maple" as a "은단풍나무.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What does 소리소리 mean?

소리 means the following:
  1. sound; noise
  2. voice; a cry; chirp
  3. a folk song; a ballad
  4. talk; a word; a statement; a remark
  5. a rumor; a report; news; an acount

Now what would you get if you wrote or said 소리 twice (소리소리)? Koreans think you would get "yelling" or "hollering," and it is not just one yell or one holler; it is a session of yelling and hollering. To make it a verb phrase, 지르다 is usually added (i.e. 소리소리 지르다).

I mention 소리소리 지르다 because it came up in a story on the Korean Lab Web site, entitled, "흥부와 제비," which is a Korean classic.

What is a 신갈나무?

On my way to work, I pass through a small park to get to the subway. Today, while walking through the park, I saw a tree labeled as 신갈나무. Since I have become interested in trees lately, I picked off a leaf and brought it to school with me. At school, I looked up 신갈나무 and found that it means "Mongolian Oak."

In class, I asked my students if they had heard of 신갈나무, but none of them had. I then asked them if they had heard of 참나무, and all of them had. Actually, 참나무 is not any particular tree; it is a genus name, but Koreans usually use it to refer to at least six species of oak. In other words, a Korean would probably look at a 신갈나무 and call it a 참나무.

According to Forest Korea, there are essentially six kinds of oak that Koreans commonly refer to as 참나무:

Seven Korean Trees You Definitely Need to Know

  • 소나무 (pine) Koreans love their shape and needles.
  • 참나무 (oak) Koreans love their acorns (도토리).
  • 은행나무 (ginkgo) Koreans love their leaves on sidewalks.
  • 느티나무 (zelkova) Koreans love their shade.
  • 밤나무 (chestnut) Koreans love their nuts.
  • 벚나무 (cherry) Koreans love their blossoms.
  • 버들 (willow) Koreans love their buds (버들눈).

Monday, November 21, 2005

What is the difference between 깨치다 & 깨우치다?

Today I started to read "연극 이야기" on the Korean Lab Web site, but was stopped almost immediately by the word, 깨치다. I knew the general meaning of the word, but it was a word that, for some reason, had always bothered me, so I decided to chew on it for a while.

깨치다 means "to realize," "to perceive," or "to awaken to," which seems to make it a synonym of 깨닫다, though 깨닫다 seems to be used somewhat differently. I am not sure of the exact difference between the two words, but I think it may have something to do with the degree of force or strength of the words; that is, I think 깨치다 may be a stronger word then 깨닫다. I do not know what the 닫다 on 깨닫다 means, but I do know that "치다" is an ending that often gives force or strength to the words it attaches to. Here is a list of such words:

When you realize a truth on your own, Koreans say (내가) 진리를 깨치다. When someone helps you realize that truth, Koreans say (그는 나한테) 진리를 깨우치다.

What does 촌철살인(寸鐵殺人) mean?

촌철살인(寸鐵殺人) literally means "kill someone with inch-long steel," but it implies that it is easier to catch an opponent off guard with one word, than with a thousand. Here are the characters:
  • 寸(촌) inch
  • 鐵(철) iron; steel
  • 殺(살) kill
  • 人(인) person

The 鐵(철) character refers to iron weapons. Here 살인(殺人) refers to killing a person's earthly desires, not to actually killing a person. The expression implies that a person can come to understand some truth from a simple lesson. Originally, the expression was referring to the truth of Zen Buddhism.

The expression is supposed to have originated in China during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when a scholar by the name of 나대경(羅大經) was discussing Zen Buddhism with guests one evening. 나대경 is supposed to have said the following:

어떤 사람이 무기를 한 수레 가득 싣고 왔다고 해서 살인을 할 수 있는 것이 아니다. 나는 오히려 한 치도 안 되는 칼만 있어도 사람을 죽일 수 있다.

A person cannot kill someone by saying he brought along a wagon full of weapons. On the contrary, I can kill someone with just a knife that is not even one inch long.

You can read the Korean here.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

How many topics can one sentence have?

In a previous post here, I talked about mistakes in one sentence of an SBS broadcast. Now I want to talk about mistakes in the two sentences following that sentence.

Here is the problem paragraph from the SBS broadcast:
지난 12일부터 시작된 부산 APEC이 오늘(19일) 2차 정상회의를 마지막으로 대단원의 막을 내렸습니다. 오늘 정상회의에서는 무역자유화와 역내안전 확대를 주 내용으로 하는 부산 선언을 채택했습니다. 21개 나라 정상들은 이와는 별도로 도하 라운드의 성공적 타결의지를 담은 특별 성명도 채택했습니다.

Today (November 19), with the conclusion of the second round of summit talks, the final curtain came down on the Busan APEC meetings, which began on November 12. Today at the summit meetings, the Busan declaration was adopted, in which the main content is free trade and regional security. Aside from this, the 21 heads of state adapted a special statement that expressed their agreement on reaching a successful compromise at the Doha Round of talks.
I will not talk about the first sentence in the paragraph since I already talked about it here, so I will only talk about the second and third sentences.

I see two problems with the second sentence. One is the phrase 주 내용으로 하는 부산 선언, which means "the Busan Declaration, in which the main content is...." Did SBS want to say 주 내용으로 하는 or 주 내용으로 한, which means "the main content was"? I think SBS wanted to say 주 내용으로 한 since the content was already included and adopted. 주 내용으로 하는 is possible, but it should be used to talk about future intentions. For example, it would be all right to say 주 내용으로 하는 부산 선언을 채택하습니다, which would mean "a Busan Declaration, in which the main content would be ... will be adapted." In my example, the content has not been adopted, yet.

The second problem I have with the second sentence is the phrase 정상회의에서는 선언을 채택했습니다. The sentence does not say who adopted the declaration; it only says that it was adopted at the summit meeting. The "meeting" did not adopt it; the participants at the meeting adopted it, but the participants are not mentioned in the sentence. Therefore, I think the sentence should read 선언이 채택됐습니다, not 선언을 채택했습니다.

In the third sentence, the most obvious mistake is that the sentence has two topics: 정상들은 and 이와는. The markers 은/는 are topic makers, and there should be only one topic in a sentence. In the SBS sentence, I think the topic should be 이와는, so the sentence should be rewritten as "이와는 별도로 21개 나라 정상들이 ...."

The second mistake I see in the third sentence is 도하 라운드의 성공적 타결의지를 담은 특별 성명도, which simply cannot be translated as it is. What I think SBS wanted to say was "a special statement that expressed their agreement on reaching a successful compromise at the Doha Round of talks." If that is the case, then the sentence should be rewritten as follows:
이와는 별도로 21개 나라 정상들이 도하 라운의 성공적인 타결을 바라는 의지를 담은 특별 성명도 채택했습니다.

In conclusion, I would rewrite the complete paragraph as follows:
지난 12일에 시작된 부산 APEC 에서는 오늘(19일)에 제2차 정상회의가 끝난 것으로 대단원의 막이 내렸습니다. 오늘 정상회의에서는 무역자유화와 역내안전 확대를 주 내용으로 한 부산 선언이 채택됐습니다. 이와는 별도로 21개 나라 정상들이 도하 라운의 성공적인 타결을 바라는 의지를 담은 특별 성명도 채택했습니다.

Koreans often complain about a problem in their society known as 대강주의 태도, which is an attitude of just doing enough to get the job done. In the United States, we often accuse government employees of having such an attitude. In fact, an expression we have created to describe it is, "That's good enough for government work." In regard to their language, many Koreans seem to have the same attitude: "That's good enough for government work."

What does 대단원 mean?

Tonight on the SBS 8 O'clock News, the anchor said the following:

지난 12일부터 시작된 부산 APEC이 오늘(19일) 2차 정상회의를 마지막으로 대단원의 막을 내렸습니다.

Today (November 19), with the conclusion of the second round of summit talks, the final curtain came down on the Busan APEC meetings, which began on November 12.


I translated the above sentence in the way I think SBS wanted to say it, but SBS did not say it that way because that one little sentence was full of mistakes. Actually, I found four.
  1. 지난 12일부터 시작된
    -
    If SBS wants to use 지난 12일부터, then she should not use the verb 시작된 since 시작하다 describes something that happens in an instant, not over a period of time, which is implied by 부터. Is it really possible for something "to start from the 12th to the 19th"? That would be an awfully slow start.

    If SBS wants to use 지난 12일부터, then she should use a verb like 진행해 온, which means "has proceeded," instead of 시작된. If SBS wants to use 시직된, then she should use 에 instead of 부터, which would make it read as 지난 12일에 시작된.
    -
  2. 정상회의를 마지막으로
    -
    There is no verb in the Korean sentence to go with the above phrase. As it is, the Korean sentence is esentially saying, 정상회의를 막을 내렸습니다, which means it has two objects and one verb. 막을 내리다 makes sense, but 정상회의를 내리다 does not. To fix the sentence, SBS would have to say 정상회의에서 막을 내렸습니다, or 마지막으로 한 정상회의에서 막을 내렸습니다.
    -
  3. 마지막으로 대단원의 막을 내렸습니다
    -
    대단원 means "grand finale" or "end." In the SBS sentence, I think they meant for 대단원의 막 to mean "the final curtain." If that is the case, then why did they need 마지막으로, which means "finally." Did they really want to say, "the final curtain was finally lowered"? To fix it, SBS would have to omit 마지막으로 since it is redundant.
    -
  4. APEC이 ... 대단원의 막을 내렸습니다
    -
    The above sentence says, "APEC lowered the final curtain." Did APEC lower the curtain? Or did the curtain simply fall? 내리다 can be used as both a transitive and an intransitive verb, which means you can say 막을 내렸다 or 막이 내렸다. If the sentence was 대단원의 막이 내렸습니다, then it would translate as "the final curtain fell," which I think sounds better.

Anyway, here is how I would rewrite the SBS sentence.

지난 12일에 시작된 부산 APEC 에서는 오늘(19일)에 제2차 정상회의가 끝난 것으로 대단원의 막이 내렸습니다.

Today (November 19), with the conclusion of the second round of summit talks, the final curtain came down on the Busan APEC meetings, which began on November 12.

By the way, I was a little curious about how 대단원(大團圓) came to mean "grand finale," so I looked at each Chinese character individually. Here they are:

I guess 대단원 could be referring to "a large gathering in a circle," the way circus performers might come together in the center ring to signal the end of a performance. I am only guessing, but I must make these kinds of associations to remember the word.

Friday, November 18, 2005

How should we use "서로"?

I have two books written by 이수열, a man who was a teacher for 47 years, but who now spends a lot of time writing about the misuse of the Korean language in publications and in the media. One of his pet peeves is the misuse of the word 서로, which means "mutually" or "reciprocally."

Mr. Lee says that 서로 is a word that indicates a relationship between two people and is, therefore, not something that could be the subject or object of a sentence, which means it should never be marked with the subject markers (가/이) or the object markers (을/를).

Here are some misuses of the word 서로 that Mr. Lee has found. The problem portion is in red:
  • 학습활동을 중심으로 ‘서로의 의견을’ 주고받는 것이 좋은 방법이다.(고등국어 상 218쪽)
    -
    Correction:
    의견을 서로 ∼.
    -
  • 모든 사람들이 제멋대로 행동하는 것을 허용한다면 ‘서로가 서로의 길을’ 방해하게 될 것이고 ….(고등국어 상 316쪽)
    -
    Correction: ∼ 서로 ∼.
    -
  • 눈앞의 상대편과 논의할 때도 ‘서로가’ 예의를 잘 차려야만 잘 되어 갈 것이다.(" 440쪽)
    -
    Correction: "∼ 서로 ∼."
    -
  • '우리 서로가’ 힘을 합하면 두려울 것이 없다.(표준국어대사전)
    -
    Correction: 우리가 서로 ∼.
    -
  • 우리는 이 지구를, 땅을 얼마나 생각했을까 진실로 ‘서로가 서로를 필요로 하는’ 생태계를 얼마나 생각했을까(ㄷ신문 기고글)
    -
    Correction: ∼ 서로 필요한 ∼.
    -
  • 부산 아시안게임에서 남북한 응원단이 ‘서로를’ 응원하기로 했다.(ㅎ신문)
    -
    Correction: ∼ 서로 ∼.
    -
  • 남북 쌍방은 ‘서로가 서로를’ 인정하는 바탕에서 만나 대화를 해야 한다.(ㄷ신문)
    -
    Correction: ∼ 서로 ∼, ∼ 상대를 ∼.
    -
  • 우리 사회의 현존하는 교육 시스템은 ‘서로가’ 단절되어 있고 연계성이 취약하다.(고등국어 하 324)
    -
    Correction: ∼ 서로 ∼.

I got the above information from here.

How would you describe a really lazy person?

The following is an expression Koreans use to describe a really lazy person:
아랫목에서 밥 먹고 윗목에서 똥 싸는 사람
A person who eats on the warmer (lower) part of an ondol floor and defecates on the cooler (upper) part

An ondol floor is a heating system that uses flues under the floor to heat rooms in traditional Korean homes. The portion of the floor nearest the firebox is called 아랫목 and is warmer than the portion of the floor farthest from the firebox, which is called 윗목. The above expression seems to be describing someone who is so lazy that he or she will not even go outside to go to the restroom.

The above expression appears in the following story:

새끼 서 발로 얻은 큰 재산

옛날 어느 마을에 게으름뱅이 아들을 둔 과부가 살았습니다. 게으름뱅이 아들은 날마다 아랫목에서 밥 먹고 윗목 요강에다 똥 누고 문턱 베고 낮잠만 잤습니다. 과부는 외아들 하나 믿고 사는데, 나이가 들수록 아들이 게으름만 피우니 화가 났습니다.

"얘야, 이 똥개야. 너도 이제는 남들처럼 일 좀 해라."

"어머니, 나는 일을 해보지 않아서 일을 할 수가 없는데 무슨 일을 하지요?"

"정 할 일이 없으면 새끼라도 꼬아라."

"그럼 새끼를 꼴 테니 짚 좀 갖다 주셔요."

"아이고 내 팔자야."과부는 신세 타령을 하면서 짚 한 뭇(장작이나 잎나무를 한 묶음씩 작게 묶은 단)을 갖다 주었습니다. 게으름뱅이는 하루 종일 문을 닫아걸고 열심히 새끼를 꼬았습니다. 저녁때 과부가 밭에서 돌아와, 아들이 새끼를 얼마나 많이 꼬았는지 보았습니다.

"그래, 새끼를 얼마나 꼬았느냐?"

"열 두발 꼬았습니다."

"어디 좀 보자."

게으름뱅이는 자기가 꼰 새끼를 양팔을 벌려 "한 발, 두 발, 열두 발 하고 있으니 말입니다.

"밥 빌어먹기 똑 알맞겠다. 그 새끼 가지고 집에서 나가거라."

게으름뱅이는 집에서 쫓겨났습니다. 새끼 서 발을 들고 어디 만큼 걸어가던 게으름뱅이는 다리가 아파 나무 그늘 아래서 쉬고 있었습니다. 항아리를 지게에 지고 다니면서 파는 항아리 장수도 그 나무 그늘 아래서 낮잠을 자고 있었습니다.항아리 장수가 잠꼬대를 하면서 발로 지게를 건드렸습니다. 지게가 넘어지면서 항아리가 굴러떨어져 두 쪽으로 깨지고 말았습니다. 항아리 장수는 "아이고 이걸 어쩌나." 하면서 어쩔 줄을 몰랐습니다.

"이 새끼로 묶으십시오. 그러면 물을 담을 수는 없겠지만 곡식은 담아 놓고 쓸 만하겠습니다." 게으름뱅이는 새끼를 항아리 장수에게 건네 주었습니다. 항아리 장수는 고맙다고 하면서 작은 물동이 하나를 게으름뱅이에게 주었습니다. 게으름뱅이는 물동이를 들고 어디 만큼 걸어갔습니다. 목이 말랐습니다. 마침 우물이 있어서 물을 마시려고 다가갔습니다. 우물가에서 한 젊은 새댁이 울고 있었습니다.

"새댁은 웬일로 울고 계시는지요?"

"저는 시집온 지 하루밖에 안 된 새댁인데 처음 물길러 왔다가 물동이를 깨뜨렸답니다. 그래서 어떻게 집에 들어가나 걱정이 되어 울고 있답니다."

"그래요? 마침 내가 물동이 하나를 가지고 있는데, 이걸 드릴 터이니 가져가십시오."

새댁은 마치 토끼가 용궁에 갔다 온 것처럼 좋아했습니다.

"이렇게 고마우실 데가... 제가 시집오면서 흑염소 세 마리를 가져왔답니다. 저기 저 흑염소가 제 것입니다. 그 가운데 한 마리를 드릴 터이니 가져가십시오."

게으름뱅이는 새댁에게서 흑염소 한 마리를 얻어 고삐를 끌고 길을 걸었습니다. 어느 마을을 지나가는데 한 아주머니가 그를 불렀습니다.

"총각, 저기 흑염소 끌고 가는 총각!"

"저를 부르셨습니까?"

"내 사정 이야기 좀 들어 보시오. 우리 남편이 몹쓸 병에 걸렸는데 약방어른께서 흑염소를 고아 먹어야 낫는다는구려. 그 염소를 저에게 주시면 대신 소를 한 마리 드리리다."

"사람을 살린다는데 거절할 수 없는 일이지요."

게으름뱅이는 흑염소를 아주머니에게 주고, 대신 소를 얻어 가지고 또 길을 걸었습니다. 어디 만큼 산길을 가는데, 사냥꾼이 곰을 잡아서 몽둥이에 묶어서는 어깨에 메고 오고 있었습니다.사냥꾼이 게으름뱅이를 불렀습니다.

"모를 내려면 논에 쟁기질을 해야 하는데 우리 집에 소가 없어 큰일입니다. 이 곰을 드릴 터이니 그 소를 저에게 주실 수 없겠습니까?"

"나는 쟁기질할 땅도 없는 사람입니다. 그렇게 하시지요."

게으름뱅이는 곰을 얻어 가지고 또 길을 걸었습니다. 가다가 보니 서울에 닿았던가 봅니다. 남대문 앞에 이르러 사람들이 옹기종기 모여 있는 데로 갔습니다. 커다란 종이에 "공주님이 병에 걸리셨다. 웅담을 구해 오는 사람에게 큰 상을 내리겠다."는 내용의 글이 씌어 있었습니다. 게으름뱅이는 곰을 가지고 궁궐로 갔습니다. 임금은 크게 기뻐하며 그에게 큰 상을 내렸습니다. 게으름뱅이는 새끼 서 발로 큰 재산을 얻었습니다. 사람들은 제 복은 제가 타고나는 모양이라고 수군거렸습니다.

The above story came from here.

What does 독새기 mean?

In the Jeju dialect, 독새기 means "egg" (계란). I have heard that the word comes from 닭새끼, which means "baby chicken."

I am not really into dialects, but if I lived in Jeju-do, I might spend some time studying their dialect. For those interested in the Jeju-do dialect, here is a page that lists some terms and expressions. And for those interesting in reading some old Jeju-do stories, here is a site that gives you the story in the Jeju dialect, along with a translation in standard Korean. The stories are short, so for fun, those of you who live in Jeju-do might want to memorize one in the Jeju dialect and tell it to one of your Korean friends there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What's the most popular Korean shade tree?

In Korean, a "shade tree" is called a 정자나무. The 정자 is the same 정자(亭子) used to mean "pavilion," which is a covered outdoor structure that people relax under. Since people also like to relax under shade trees, 정자나무 seems like the perfect name for "shade tree."

Here are some Korean shade trees:

Can you guess which of the above shade trees is the most popular in Korea? Well, among the four, the 느티나무 (zelkova tree) is, by far, the most popular. In fact, I have read that 80 percent of the shade trees in Korea are 느티나무.

Traditionally, Korean villages have one or two huge shade trees at their entrances, and the 느티나무 seems to be the most popular. These trees act as a kind of outdoor gathering place for the people of the village, which means the trees play an important part in their lives, or, at least, they used to.

I have also heard that, in the past, Korean villagers would often keep a store of rocks under the village shade tree, so that they could be used to defend the village from attack. The village tree was a good place to keep the rocks because the tree was near the entrance of the village and because the spirit of the tree could bless the rocks, which would help make sure the rocks hit their targets.

The 느티나무 is mentioned a great deal in Korean literature, which is not surprising since it has played such a prominent role in the lives of many Koreans. Even Koreans who have grown up in the city know about 느티나무 because most probably have relatives who still live in small villages in the countryside.

The reason I have posted on 느티나무 today is not only that it is an important part of Korean culture, but also that it was mentioned in this story on the Korean Lab Web site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What is the "ringworm tree"?

There is a tree at the corner of an intersection I have to cross on my way to school. I often stand under it while waiting for the light to change. The leaves are as big as or bigger than my hand and quite beautiful, especially in the fall. The trunk is patchy and peeling. I have often wondered about the name of the tree and have sometimes asked Koreans, also waiting for the light, if they knew its name. They have always answered with "몰라요." Today, however, I picked up one of the big leaves lying on the ground and decided that I was going to find out the name the of tree.

I did a search on Google with the word "가로수" and found this page. Then I went to "Forrest Korea" and started looking up the trees on the list. I finally found the tree here. The Engish name of the tree is "sycamore." Here is a good picture of a leaf and the trunk of the tree.

Koreans imported the sycamore tree from the United States because they made good "roadside trees" (가로수) and are not easily affected by pollution. The Korean name for the sycamore is 양버즘나무, which means "Western ringworm tree." Koreans called it the ringworm tree because the peeling bark of the tree reminded them of the peeling skin on the shaved heads of the many Korean children who used to suffer from ringworm. Many Koreans, however, did not like referring to such a beautiful tree by such an ugly name and started to also call it 플라타너스, which is the Korean pronunciation of "Platanus," which comes from "Platanus occidentalis," the Latin name for the tree.

Having solved that mystery, I may finally be able to sleep soundly tonight.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why does "가" change 너 & 저 to 네 & 제?

In Korean, 가 and 이 are subject markers that Koreans attach to a noun or pronoun to show that the noun or pronoun is the subject of the sentence. 가 attaches to nouns and pronouns that end in vowels, and 이 attaches to nouns and pronouns that end in consonants. Between the two subject markers, 이 is the older one since Koreans did not start using 가 until a couple of hundred years ago. Before that, 이 was attached to all nouns and pronouns, regardless of whether they ended in vowels or consonants.

The new grammar rule must have caused a bit of confusion in Korea because some Koreans in some regions, even today, mark the subject of a sentence by using 이 and 가 together, maybe just to be safe. Consider the following sentence:
당신 너 딸이가 찾아왔습니다.
Your daughter is here looking for you.

Notice how 이 and 가 are both used to mark the subject?

I have read that 네가 and 제가 are probably abbreviated forms of 너이가 and 저이가.

How do Koreans say "dumbfounded"?

While reading a story called "당나귀 알," I came across the phrase, "수박 장수는 너무 기가 차서...," and become curious about the word 기차다. I became curious because I could not remember ever seeing the word before, even though I most probably have. It may just be one of those words that I have looked up a dozen times, but never really paid enough attention to. Anyway, I want to remember it this time by giving it a little attention.

기차다 means "dumbfounded," "stunned," or "shocked," and, therefore, seems to have the same meaning as 기막히다, which I have heard many times before. Actually, when I first saw 기차다, the word 숨차다 (be out of breath) came to mind, and I thought the writer may have made a mistake by writing 기차다 instead of 기막히다. Of course, after looking up the word, I realized that I was the one who made the mistake.

By the way, I noticed that another definition for 기차다 is 정떨어지다, which means "become disgusted ," "fall out of love ," or "grow sick of." I mention this because 정떨어지다 is a good word that is used a lot in Korea.

From now on, I think I will finally be able to remember 기차다.

You nestling! ... What did you call me?!

In Korean, I usually avoid talking about "nestlings" because I feel like I am cursing.

The Korean word for "nestling" is 새새끼.

What is wrong with 나는 싸웠다?

"나는 싸웠다" is considered an awkward sentence in Korean because the speaker does not say who he or she fought with. Koreans would normally say something like 나는 그와 싸웠다, which means "I fought with him." In English,"I had a fight" may sound all right, but Korean normally requires that you mention with whom you had the fight.

It takes two to tango, it takes two to fight, and it takes two to do many other things, as well. There are certain Korean verbs that require a partner or an opponent to perform the action, and among these verbs, some require that if you mention one partner or opponent, you mention the other. Often you mention that partner or opponent by using one of the "and" conjunctions, that is, 와, 과, or 하고. Here is a list of some of those "two-to-tango" verbs:

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How do I study Korean?

I have been studying Korean for almost thirty years, but not in a very systematic way. Also, when I started, there was no Internet, no personal computers, and few Korean language sources for foreign learners. In March 1977, when I first came to Korea in the navy, the best Korean language source for foreign learners were two books called "Myongdo Korean I & II." Later, a third and forth book came out, but they were not as good as the first two. These days there is almost too much out there.

I consider myself fluent, but there are different levels of fluency. For example, I can watch Korean soap operas, follow TV news, and discuss a range of topics with taxi drivers and others, but I still have trouble following certain discussions on TV and understanding groups of Koreans when they start talking in their abbreviated style of chatter, which is often filled with slang and idiomatic expressions. They also have background information on the topics that I do not, which makes it hard to follow them.

What are my suggestions for learning Korean?

First, I would get the 6-book series from the Yonsei Korean Language Institute and read through them about five or six times. Those books are filled with good stuff, and you will learn something new everytime you read them.

Second, while going through the Yonsei books, start with the first grade textbook on the Korean Lab Web site and work your way up. That will help make sure you learn the cultural items and language expressions that every Korean knows, instead of things that only a few super-educated Koreans know.

Third, get yourself a Korean chat friend because that will help you get plenty of exposure to the slang. By the way, here is a link to Korean Chat Expressions.

Fourth, stay curious and do not pretend to be more fluent than what you are, which means ask questions when you do not know. Read newspapers and college level material, but also read children's stories, which teach those little verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that foreign learners of Korean seem to have a lot of trouble with.

Fifth, learn the Korean idioms because they are used all the time. Here is a good Idiom Dictionary.

Sixth, learn Korean proverbs because if they come up in conversation and you do not know them, you will get lost. Korean proverbs are fun. Just read them at your leisure. Here is a Proverb Dictionary.

Seventh, learn Chinese characters and Chinese character idioms. Knowing Chinese characters will help you better understand and remember a lot of confusing Korean words. Naver has the best Chinese Character Dictionary I have seen. In fact, Naver has just about the best everything.

Eighth, listen to Korean news broadcasts. I listen to the KBS 9 O'clock News to develop my listening skills. After listening to the news on TV, I can go on the Internet an hour later and listen to it again while following a transcript the site provides. That allows me to see and hear the portions of the news that I did not hear the first time around.

Ninth, keep an online diary or write a blog in Korean. I do not do it, but I should. I do have this blog, however, and the reason I have it is that when I write about something dealing with the Korean language, it helps me to learn and remember what I am writing about.

Tenth, do not get frustrated. When you are nearing the top of one hill, expect to see another one on the other side. Enjoy the journey and do not worry about reaching your destination because there will always be another hill.

Well, that is my 10-Step Plan for learning Korean. I do not read many Korean novels or watch many Korean movies because both are a little difficult for me to understand and enjoy. I prefer TV soap operas to movies because the dialog is not usually mixed with background noise and special effects, making it hard to hear. Also, a soap opera is a story that continues over several months instead of just two hours, so I have time to follow the story, understand the characters, and learn their style of speech and favorite expressions.

I prefer reading Korean history and language books to novels because they have more explanation. I especially like Korean language related books. I also like Korean children's stories because they are fun and are stories that almost every Korean has read. Novels are usually too difficult and tend to mix in a lot of dialect, which I am not really interested in learning right now. There are too many things to learn, and novels seem to take up too much time.

That is how I study Korean, but I am sure everybody has his or her preferred way.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The difference between 자기, 자신, & 자기 자신?

This week I am talking about "reflexive pronouns" in some of my English classes. In the process, I started thinking about how much easier English reflexive pronouns are than Korean.

The following words can act as reflexive pronouns in Korean:

  • 자기
    자기 생각만 한다.
    You think only of yourself.
    -
  • 자신
    네 자신이 생각하라.
    Think for yourself.
    -
  • 자기 자신
    (너) 자기 자신도 돌보지 못 한다.
    (You) cannot look after yourself.
    -

  • 그 놈은 저밖에 모른다.
    He thinks only of himself.
    -
  • 당신
    대통령께선 당신을 돌보지 않고 나라 걱정만 하십니다.
    The president neglects himself and only worries about the country.
    -
  • 스스로
    문이 스스로 열렸다.
    The door opened by itself.
    -
  • 서로
    (그들이) 서로 욕하다.
    (They) call each other names.
    -
  • 자체
    목적 자체는 훌륭했다.
    The motive itself was admirable.

The Differences Between the Different Pronouns

자신 and 자기 are both reflexive pronouns, but 자신 has two functions that 자기 does not. 자신 can be used redundantly to emphasis the preceding noun or pronoun, but 자기 cannot. See the following example:

  • 나 자신은 이 그림이 좋다.
    I, myself, like this picture.

자신 can also be used to mean "alone" or "on one's own," but 자기 cannot. 스스로 can also be used in this way. See the following the examples:

  • 네 자신이 생각하라.
    Think for yourself.
    -
  • 그는 스스로 결정했다.
    He decided for himself.

저 and 당신 are first person and second person pronouns, respectively, but they can also be used as reflexive pronouns, which can be very confusing. When used as reflexive pronouns, they function the same as 자기 and 자신, but 저 seems to be less respectful, and 당신 is more. Consider these examples:

  • 그 놈은 제가 하지 않았다고 주장한다.
    That guy claims he did not do it.
    -
  • 대통령께선 당신을 돌보지 않고 나라 걱정만 하십니다.
    The president neglects himself and only worries about the country.

Notice how the reflexive pronoun, 저, just like the first person pronoun 저, changes form when the subject marker 가 is attached. By the way, in the past, 저 and 당신 were used only as reflexive pronouns, but now they seem to be used more as first and second person pronouns than as reflexive pronouns.

자기 자신 is treated as an independent reflexive pronoun, and can replace 자신 and 자기 in many situations, but in complex sentences, there is a big difference in meaning. Consider the following examples:

  1. 갑수는 을수에게 병수가 자기를 때렸다고 말했다.
    -
  2. 갑수는 을수에게 병수가 자기 자신를 때렸다고 말했다.

In Sentence 1, is 갑수 saying that 병수 hit him (갑수) or that 병수 hit himself? In the case of Sentence 1, 자기 usually refers to the subject of the main clause, but not always, which makes it somewhat confusing. However, 자기 자신 is used only to refer to the subject of the clause it is in. Here are the translations:

  1. 갑수는 을수에게 병수가 자기를 때렸다고 말했다.
    Kap-su told Eul-su that Byeong-su hit him (Kap-su).
    -
  2. 갑수는 을수에게 병수가 자기 자신 때렸다고 말했다.
    Kap-su told Eul-su that Byeong-su hit himself.

자체 is used as a reflexive pronoun for things or concepts. Consider the following example:

  • 덕을 행한다는 것, 그 자체가 보상이다.
    Virtue is its own reward.

Why did Koreans make reflexive pronouns so confusing?

What's the oldest living species of tree?

Answer: 은행나무 (the gingko tree)

How many of these questions can you answer correctly?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Are dried persimmons scarier than tigers?

Today I read a story about a tiger that came down from his mountain looking for food. He came upon a remote farmhouse where a man was eating dinner at a table in front of the house. The tiger began to sneak up on the man, but before he could get close enough to attack, the man looked up at the sky and said, 소나기가 올 것 같은데," and then grabbed his things off the table and ran into the house. After seeing how scared the man was of this thing called 소나기, the tiger suddenly got scared, too, and ran into the nearby barn to hide.

It grew dark and the tiger was still hiding in the barn when a cow thief came sneaking in. The tiger heard him come in, but he thought it was 소나기 and hide his face in the straw in an effort to hide.

It was so dark in the barn that the cow thief had to feel his way around. When he touched the fur of the tiger, he thought it was a cow and said, "옳지 이 집에 제법 쓸 만한 황소가 한 마리 있구나," and then jumped up on its back and slapped him on the butt.

The tiger was so shocked and afraid when 소나기 jumped up on his back and slapped him on the butt that he jumped up and started running back to the mountain with 소나기 clinging to his back. The more he tried to shake 소나기 off his back, the tighter he would hold on. The tiger had never been attacked like this before and was sure he was going to die.

After he realized he was on the back of a tiger instead of a cow, the thief had no choice but to hang on to the back of the tiger, fearing that he would be eaten if he fell off. After a fairly long time running around in the forrest on the back of the tiger, the thief saw a branch of a large tree overhanging the path they were running on. Feeling that this was his last chance to save himself, the thief jumped up and grabbed the branch as they passed under it. The thief then climbed up into the tree and hide among its leaves as the tiger continued to run away down the path.

It was not until sometime later that the tiger realized that 소나기 was no longer on his back. When he realized it, he felt he was lucky to be alive, and ever since then, tigers have feared 소나기.

The story ends with the following sentence:


호랑이는 곶감보다도 하늘을 더 무서워하게 되었다고 한다.

They say that tigers have become more afraid of the sky than of dried persimmons.

For non-Koreans who have not read Korean children stories, the above sentence would probably leave them scratching their heads, but Koreans would know its meaning right away.

Here is a link to a story about a tiger and a dried persimmon. The story is similar to the one above, but it is 곶감 the tiger fears, not 소나기:

호랑이와 곶감

Here is a link to other stories on the same site.

And here is a link to an interesting site with pictures and stories about Andong and other writings.

The above story shows that knowing Korean children stories will help Korean language learners better understand the language. For further proof, consider the following passage, which would have been difficult to understand without knowing the story about the tiger and the dried persimmon.
한 진보운동가의 고백 나는 노사모가 무섭다! 홍기표 민주노동당 당원 사람들은 말한다. 호랑이보다 곶감이 더 무섭다고. 나는 생각한다. 새천년민주당이라는 종이호랑이보다 그 호랑이가 손에 쥐고 있는 곶감(노무현을 사랑하는 사람들의 모임, 이하 노사모)이 더 무섭다고.

The above passage comes from a site I cannot link to, which is all right since it is not really worth reading, anyway.

What does 개나리를 솎다 mean?

Yesterday I read "4學年이 되어서" in the fourth grade textbook on the Korean Lab Web site. The story was nothing special, but it did give me a little cultural insight, and I learned a few little language-related things, as well. What follows are a few of the things I noticed.

I have been studying Korean for a long time, but I do not remember ever reading or hearing the word 솎다. I may have read it and just forgotten it, or I may have heard it and not realized it, but, at any rate, I stopped and looked up the word last night while reading the story. 솎다 means "thin [cull] (out) plants." I think that is a useful word, but I have to be careful when pronouncing words with a "소" in them because if I am lazy about rounding my lips, they come out as "서." In fact, I have learned to take special care when pronoucing any word that has an ㅗ sound in it since Koreans seem to be very particular about their ㅓ's and ㅗ's.

The story refers to students in the fourth grade as 상급생, which means "upper-class students." It implies that fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students are considered "upper-class students," and first, second, and third grade students are "lower-class students" (하급생). I do not remember hearing such designations when I was in elementary school, even though we may have felt that way.

Finally, the story begins with the following sentence:
경호네 班에서는 4學年이 되어서 처음으로 學級 어린이會가 열렸습니다.

After becoming fourth-year students, Kyeong-ho's class had a grade-level student meeting for the first time.

What caught my eye in the above sentence was the use of 네 after 경호, where it is used instead of 의 to make 경호 a possessive noun. I have known 네 to be used in this way to refer to one's family, but until I saw it used in the above story, I never realized that it is also used to refer to other groups. I may have heard it used, but just assumed that it was 의 since 의 and 네 sound similar in spoken Korean. Now that I think about it, I have seen it before, but just never paid attention to it. In fact, I saw it in a cartoon that I talked about here.

I have noticed that when I read fairly easy stories, I pay attention to smaller things, things that I tend to overlook in more difficult stories. I think that is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What does 난중일기(亂中日記) mean?

난중일기(亂中日記) is the diary that was kept by Admiral Yi Sun-shin(이순신 장군) from 1592 to 1598, during the Japanese invasion of Korea, which Koreans refer to as the 임진왜란(壬辰倭亂). The diary is a national treasure in Korea. In fact, it is National Treasure No. 76 (국보 76호).

The diary was mentioned in a story on the Korean Lab Web site entitled "현충사를 다녀와서." 현충사 is the shrine erected in honor of 이순신. The shrine is located in Asan County(아산군) in South Chungcheung province (충청남도). If you want to learn more about 이순신 and his shrine, you can go to this great site. If you want to read the diary, you can go here, where there is a version for children and for adults. To turn the page of the children's version of the diary, you have to click and hold on the corner of the page and pull it as if you were turning the page with your finger.

Since the diary is mentioned in a third grade textbook, we can assume it is something every Korean grade schooler is expected to know, which means that serious students of Korean should probably know about it, too.

난중일기(亂中日記) literally means "diary during the disturbance." Here are the Chinese characters:

  • 亂 어지러울 (난) disturbed; confused; disturbance
  • 中 가운데 middle; during
  • 日 날 day
  • 記 기록 record

Koreans usually attach the character 亂(란) to other characters to designate a specific war, rebellion, riot, or disturbance (i.e. 임진왜란, 병자호란). 亂(란) is the same 亂(란) found in the word 난리(亂離), which can mean "an uproar," "a disturbance," "a riot," "a revolt," and even "war." Koreans use "난리 났다" to describe a scramble for half-price items in a department store, a fight between a husband and wife, a labor riot, a natural disaster, and almost any situation where there is much confusion. A "flood" can be called a 물난리, and a "fire" can be called a 불난리.

I like reading the textbook stories and poems on the Korean Lab Web site because they do more than just teach me Korean; they give me a glimpse into how Koreans think, and why they view the world the way they do. If you start with the stories in the first grade textbook and work your way up, you have a chance to develop the same language and thought patterns that Koreans have. What Koreans learn in their grade school years most likely stays with them for the rest of their lives. That is why elementary education is so very important. Unfortunately, prejudice and hate can also be taught in these formative years.

One thing that I did not like about the story, "현충사를 다녀와서," was that the writer used to word 왜놈 to describe the Japanese. 왜놈 is a derogatory term equivalent to the English word "Jap." Here is the relevant piece of text from the story:

이순신 장군이 세계 최초의 철갑선을 만들어 왜놈들과 싸워 이겼다는 생각을 하니 가슴이 뿌듯했다.

Admiral Yi Sun Sin built the world's first iron-clad ship and beat "the Japs" in battle. When I thought about that my heart filled with pride.

I do not think it is right to be teaching children such derogatory terms. It would be like American textbooks teaching children to refer to Koreans, Vietnamese, and other Asians as "gooks." Children learn enough hate and prejudice from their parents and peers; they should not also be learning it from their teachers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What does 두문불출(杜門不出) mean?

두문불출(杜門不出) means "close one's door and do not go out." In other words, it means "seclude onself." The characters are as follows:
  • 杜 막을 close; shut
  • 門 문 door
  • 不 아니 not
  • 出 날 exit; come out; go out

I like the character 杜(두) because it is simple and natural. Afterall, how many things are more simple and natural than "a tree" and "earth"? However, I do understand why the Chinese would choose this character combination to mean "shut."

I mention the expression because I have been secluding myself recently. After my classes, I come straight home and lock myself in my apartment. For some reason, I would rather be with my books than with people.

I will be turning fifty soon, which means that I have been studying Korean for almost thirty years. My first "descent" Korean textbook was Myongdo Korean 1, given to me by a guy I knew in the navy who was nicknamed "Tex." That book was like the Rosetta stone to me because I finally got a logical explanation of the Korean language, something I did not get in the 32-week course I had recently completed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. I loved that Myongdo book and carried it with me almost everywhere I went. With that book, I felt that it was only a matter of time before I would be speaking Korean like a Korean. Boy, was I naive.

After almost thirty years of studying Korean, I am only now beginnning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but even that may be a mirage since I have seen similar lights in the past. Korean has been like a carrot dangling from a stick in in front of my nose, tempting me to keep trudging along on my path to master the language, but always staying just out of reach. Sometimes I feel like a Guinea pig in some alien experiment in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

I wonder how my life would be different if I had not gotten addicted to Korean? Would I have married one of the women I pushed aside in my pursuit of the language. Would I now have a house, a family, and a dog somewhere in the US? Would I enjoy more the company of friends and family?

It has been so long that I cannot remember what it feels like to live a day without feeling obligated to pick up a Korean book and study. Sometimes I do not know if I am in heaven or hell.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

What does 깐돌이 mean?

While reading "내 동생" on the Korean Lab Web site, I came across the word 깐돌이, which is defined in this book as student slang for "똑똑한 남자." However, while talking to a Korean friend of mine on the phone today, I asked her about 깐돌이, and she said it was used to refer to a "meticulous person," which makes sense since 깐깐하다 means "tenancious," "meticulous," or "particular." Now I am not sure which meaning was used on the Korean Lab Web site.

By the way, I bought my copy of this book years ago and paid 3,800 won for it. Today, I looked and found the new version of the book here for 15,000 won. Comparing the two tables of contents, the only thing that seems different is that the newer version has added two new sections: 12. 욕설----105 and 상업어----122. Unless those two sections are something really special, I think I was right to get my book early.

What does 삥뜯다 mean?

삥뜯다 is student slang that means "forcefully take money from someone." I saw the word in this cartoon, which was on this site. The name of the cartoon is "범생," which is an abbreviation for 모범생, which means "model student." A couple of other expressions in the cartoon are as follows:
  • 족치다 to torture severely; to put the screws (to a person)
  • 손보다 take care of; repair
  • 깝치다 to put on airs.
  • 분지르다 to break off; to fracture (a bone)

Here is the dialog and my translation:

뒷좌석 여자1: 야 우리 저년한테 삥뜯어서 노래방이나 가자.

(전화 울리는 소리)

뒷좌석 여자2: 야, 너....

모범: (전화를 받으면서) 여보세요. 아, 언니. .... 네, 지금 S고 애새끼들 족치러 가는 중이었어요. .... M고는 언니네가 손보기로 했죠? 그새끼들 다시는 깝치지 않게 다리 하나 분질러 놓으세요. .... 지금 곧 애들 만나니까 애들 필요하면 몇명 보낼게요. 연락주세요. 엄마때문에 범생이처럼 하고 나왔어요. .... 네...네. .... 네, 그럼 끊을게요. .... 나한테 무슨 볼일이라도?

뒷좌석 여자2: 아아뇨. 잘못봤어요.

Back Seat Girl1: Hey, let's take some money from that girl and go to a singing room or something.

(Phone rings)
Back Seat Girl2: Hey, you....

Model Student: (Answering the phone) Hello. Ah, older sister. ....Yes, I am on my way to "S" High School to put the screws to those punk kids. ....Your group is going to take care of the kids at "M" High School, right? .... Break one of their legs so that they do not get high and mighty again. .... I'm getting ready to meet my girls, so if you need any help, I'll send some over. Just call. Because of mom, I am dressed up as a model student today. .... Okay, okay, all right, bye. (hangs up the phone and turns to the girls behind her) Did you have something to say to me?

Back Seat Girl 2: No, we thought you were someone else.

Does 이르다 change to 이르러요 or 일러요?

Tonight I was reading "집 이야기" on the Korean Lab Web site and came across the following sentence:

오늘날에 이르러서는 생활이 복잡해지고 人口도 많아져 그에 맞는 여러 종류의 집이 開發되었다.

Today a variety of house styles have been developed to match our more complex lives and larger population.

When I read the word 이르러서는, I was reminded of something I learned sometime in the past. There are three 이르다 in my dictionary, and two of them change to 일러 when the polite ending 요 or certain conjuctions are added, but one of them changes to 이르러. The three 이르다 are as follows:
  1. 이르다 (이르러) 1) reach; arrive 2) extend to; come to
    -
  2. 이르다 (일러) 1) say 2) explain; teach 3) tell; report 4) tell on (a person)
    -
  3. 이르다 (일러) 1) early 2) premature

The first 이르다 is the one that appeared in the story I was reading.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What tree never lies?

Answer: The black oak

In Korean, the "black oak" is called 참나무. The reason I say the black oak tree never lies is that one meaning for 참 is "truth," so 참나무 could literally be translated as the "truth tree," although I do not know if that is where the name came from. Here is a picture of a 참나무.

In an earlier post, here, I talked about "The Tree Song," which also mentions 참나무. Here is the line from the song:
이놈 대끼놈 대나무 거짓말 못해 참나무
The Bamboo, a little pest,
The Black Oak, unable to lie

I am not sure of the meaning of 대끼놈, but I have seen it used to refer to mischievous children. If anyone knows the exact meaning, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.

How many holes are there in a man's body?

According to oriental medicine, there are nine holes in a man's body. Seven of the holes are in the head: the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, and the mouth. The other two holes are the butt hole and the pee hole. In Korean, these nine holes are referred to as 구규(九竅). The character 九(구) means "nine," and 竅(규) means "hole." Another name for the nine holes is 구혈(九穴). The character 穴(혈) also means "hole."

Between 구규(九竅) and 구혈(九穴), I like 구혈(九穴) better because 穴(혈) is much easier to write than 竅(규), and it is also more useful since it is one of the 214 radicals. The reason I bring up the topic of "the nine holes," is because I became interested in 穴(혈) after seeing it in the story about the tiger and the bear who wanted to become human. According to the story, the tiger and bear lived in the "same hole" (同穴). Here is the relevant passage from the story:

時有一熊一虎 同穴而居
시유일웅일호 동혈이거

At the time, a bear and a tiger lived together in the same cave.
  • (시) = time; then
  • (유) = exist; have
  • (일) = one
  • (웅) = bear
  • (호) = tiger
  • (동) = together; same
  • (혈) = hole; cave
  • (이) = maybe "together"
  • (거) = live


In the above Chinese, I am not sure of the meaning of 而(이), but together with 居(거), it seems to mean "live together"(而居). By the way, the character 而(이) is often seen in Chinese writings because it has several other meanings, including "and," "therefore," "but," "although," "just," and "you." As for the character 穴(혈), notice how it changes shape when it is used as part of other characters:

  • (공) empty
  • (구) research
  • (군) poor; destitute; needy
  • (굴) tunnel; dugout
  • (궁) exhausted; used up; poor
  • (궁) sky
  • (규) watch furtively; spy on; wait for a chance; guess
  • (돌) suddenly; to collide with; to penetrate
  • (요) secluded; deep; dark
  • (요) a kiln (for pottery or bricks)
  • (절) to steal; thief; stealthily
  • (정) a pit; trap
  • (질) to close; to block up
  • (착) narrow; tight; small
  • (창) window
  • 穿(천) to dig through; to penetrate

By the way, a while back I posted "here" about the character 肛(항), which means "anus." I said that the character should be redesigned because combining 月(육), which means "meat," and 工(공), which means "craftsman," did not make sense. A "meaty craftsman" means "anus"? Anyway, I felt the authority in charge of Chinese characters should combine 月(육) with a character that means "hole." I made a couple of suggestions, but now I think the best combination would be to combine 月(육) with 穴(혈), which would look great above 月(육). In fact, I cannot imagine a better looking "asshole."