Friday, June 20, 2008

Are tulips (鬱草) depressing?

우울하다 (憂鬱) means "depressed," melancholy," or gloomy." I think 우울하다 is a good word since it even sounds "depressing," but even more depressing than the sound is the Chinese character for the "울" in 우울하다, which is depressingly complex and can mean "depression" or "gloom." Why would someone make a character that looks like this?


Notice that it is not only complex, but it is also ugly. A person would have to be pretty damned depressed to make a character that ugly, right? If you would like to learn all seventeen meanings for this depressing character, you can go to Naver's Chinese character dictionary HERE. By the way, 울울하다 (鬱鬱) also means "depressed," melancholy," or gloomy."

I am so depressed by this character that I do not even want to write about it anymore, except to say the following three things.

The radical for this character is also depressing since the only two characters listed under it is 鬱 (울), and the radical, itself, 鬯 (창), which is the name of some kind of Chinese liquor. Why even bother with a radical if you are only going to put one other character under it?

Also, strangely, the Chinese names for "tulip" are 鬱金香 (울금향) and 鬱草 (울초), which, I guess, could mean "depressing, golden fragrance" and "depressing grass," respectively. However, that seems a little strange to me because I do not find tulips depressing. Do you? Of course, THIS SONG about tulips is a little depressing.

It is possible, I guess, that the 鬱 (울) in 鬱金香 (울금향) and 鬱草 (울초) meant "beautiful" instead of "depressing" since "beautiful" is one of the other meanings of the character. If that is the case, then I guess the meanings of the Chinese names for tulip would be "beautiful, golden fragrance" (鬱金香) and "beautiful grass" (鬱草), which sounds a little better to me.

Finally, the character 鬱 (울) can also be found in the name of the Korean island of Ulleungdo (鬱陵島 - 울릉도). Since 陵 (릉) means "hill" and 島 (島) means "island," wouldn't that mean that Ulleungdo (鬱陵島) means "Depressing Hill Island"? Well, probably not since 鬱 can also mean "luxuriant," as in luxuriant foliage. Therefore, it is more probable that the originally meaning of the name "Ulleungdo" was either "Luxuriant Mountain Island" or "Beautiful Mountain Island," which describe the island quite well.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What is the opposite of 낙제 (落第)?

The Korean word 낙제 (落第) means "to fail an exam." The Chinese character 落 (낙) means "to fall," and the character 제 (第) means "order" or "exam." It seems a little strange that a word that means "order" could also mean "exam," but maybe it is based on the fact that an exam helps determine your ranking or "order" among a group of people?

The opposite of 낙제 (落第) is 급제 (及第), which means "to pass an exam." The Chinese character 及(급) means "to reach" or "to attain."

I am interested in the Chinese character 及 (급) and how it combines with other characters to make certain words. For example, the Korean word 가급적 (可及的) means "as ... as possible" or "as much as possible." The character 可 (가) means "possible," and 及 (급) means "to reach" or "to attain," so it literally means "the quality of being able to reach or attain as much (of something) as possible."

The following are some other words that include the character 及 (급):
  • 미급 (未及) - unattainable
  • 역불급 (力不及) - beyond one's power or ability
  • 소급 (遡及) - retroaction; retroactivity (遡 means "to oppose" or "to go against")
  • 불소급 (不遡及) - not retroactive
  • 과불급 (過不及) - excess or deficiency
  • 추급 (追及) - overtake; catch up with
  • 파급 (波及) - extend or spead (like a wave)
  • 논급 (論及) - reference; mention
  • 보급 (普及) - diffusion; spread (普 means "wide")
  • 언급 (言及) - reference; mention

By the way, do not confuse the character 第 (제) with 弟 (제), which means "younger brother."