Sunday, August 30, 2009

What was Seoul like at the turn of the century?

Part of the following video is supposedly film footage made by Burton Holmes, who was an American explorer and writer who visited Korea in 1901 (and 1912). I found it quite interesting.



The funeral of the former Korean ruler, Sunjong, in 1926



Also, here is an interesting video from 1931

Doesn't 선생님한테 꾸지람을 들었다 seem strange?

선생님한테 꾸지람을 들었다 means "I was scolded by my teacher." The sentence is composed of the following parts:


  • 선생님께 -- by my teacher
  • 꾸지람을 -- a scolding
  • 들었다 (past participle of 듣다) -- heard

I used to think the above sentence was strange, and still do, because I had learned that 한테 meant "to," not "by." I had always thought that instead of saying 선생님한테, people should say 선생님한테서, which would mean "from my teacher." If you "hear" something, shouldn't you hear it "from someone" instead of "to someone"? I have often wondered if it was not originally 선생님한테서.

Anyway, if you look up 한테 or 에게 in the dictionary, you will find that it has, at least, two meanings. One meaning is "to," and the other is "by." Here are the examples from my dictionary with the meaning of "by."

  • 나는 그에게 속았다.
    I was fooled by him.
  • 범에게 물려 가도 정신만 차리면 산다고 했다.
    It is said that even if you are being carried off in the mouth of a tiger, you can survive if you keep your presence of mind.
  • 그것을 누구에게 들었습니까?
    From whom did you hear that?

Actually, I can understand and accept the first two examples because you are fooled "by someone," not "from someone," and you are carried off "by a tiger," not "from a tiger," but there is something about the verb "hear" (듣다) that makes me want to say 한테서 or 에게서 instead of 한테 or 에게. For example, notice that the second example was translated with "from," not "by." So, is it wrong to say 그것을 누구에게서 들었습니까? I don't know, but Koreans say it.

Here are some other examples:

  • 어린이에게도 배울 것이 있다.
    We can also learn from children.
  • 친구에게 돈을 빌렸다.
    I borrowed money from my friend.
  • 스승께 글을 배운다.
    I was taught to write by my teacher.
  • 강도에게 돈을 빼앗았다.
    I was robbed of my money by a thief.

Supposedly, 에게 or 한테 are attached to an animate object when the object causes the action. In the case of 그것을 누구에게 들었습니까, the object 누구 apparently causes you to hear 그것을, so 에게, not 에게서, should be used. If that is true, then it should also apply to the following sentence.

I received a letter from my friend?
친구한테 편지를 받았다.

You would not have received the letter if your friend had not sent it, so I guess that would mean that 한테 is used instead of 한테서, right? However, how would the following sentence be translated?

A letter came from my friend.

a) 친구한테 편지가 왔다.
b) 친구한테서 편지가 왔다.

The letter came because my friend sent it, so why doesn't the 에게 and 한테 "by" rule also apply? Does the "to" meaning override the "by" meaning in the about example? In English, we use "by" a lot in passive sentences, but I have still not worked it all out.

Many Koreans are confused by 에게 and 에게서, so I think I have a right to be confused, too.

Aren't there worse places?

Today I visited a blog entitled "Caveat DVMPTRVCK" and came across the following video clips. It seems the blogger has been working in Korea as an English teacher and has recently bought a video camera. Anyway, while watching the first video, which is just a video of the blogger travelling from his apartment to the Kyobo Bookstore in Gangnam, I realized, again, just how nice it is to live in a big city in Korea. Korean cities are very safe and generally clean.

If I had to live in a large city and I could choose among all the large cities in the world, I think I would choose Seoul. Being able to walk the streets safely at any time of day or night is a big plus for me.



I also liked the following video. I think it is an example of why it can be fun teaching English in Korea. Apparently, the girls are some of the blogger's students.



The following video is of a boy named Peter, alias "Skywalker." I think this video is another example of how teaching English in Korea can be a fun job.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How do Koreans quote Lincoln?

In his Gettyburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln used the now famous phrase "that government: of the people, by the people, for the people" to describe the kind of government they were fighting for. In Korean, the phrase is usually translated as follows:

"... that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, ..."
"... 인민의, 인민에 의한, 인민을 위한 정치, ..."

In his book, "우리가 정말 알아야 할 '우리말 바로 쓰기,'" Lee Su-yeol (이수열) took issue with the translation and suggested the following, instead:

"... that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, ..."
"... 인민을 위해, 인민이 하는, 인민의 정치, ..."

Instead of using 인민의 to translate "of the people," Mr. Lee used it to translate "for the people." To translate "of the people," he used 인민을 위해. Also, one of Mr. Lee's pet peeves is that Koreans frequently misuse 에 의하여 to mean "by," so he replaced 인민에 의한 with 인민이 하는.

Personally, I would translate the Lincoln phrase as follows:
"... that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, ..."
"... 인민에서, 인민으로, 인민을 위하여 하는 정치, ..."
I like Mr. Lee, but I think he misunderstood some of the English. However, he was correct to point out the misuse of 에 의하여 for "by."

의하다 is a shortened form of 의거하다, which means "to be based on," "to be founded on," or "to be predicated on." The Korean definition is "어떤 사실에 근거하다." However, if you look at an English definition of 의하다, you will see one listed under "Other" (기타) that defines it as "by." The example in my dictionary is as follows:
브람스에 의한 교향곡
a symphony (composed) by Brahms
My Korean-Korean dictionary (국어사전) does not define 의하다 as "by," so I think this is a case of my Korean-English dictionary defining a popular misuse of the word without explaining that it is a misuse. If I had to choose between an English definition and a Korean definition, I would usually choose the Korean.

UPDATE:

On second thought, I think the original translation of the phrase was basically correct. I think Lincoln's "by the people" essentially meant "based on the people's will or authority." Nevertheless, I would prefer the following translation:
"... that government: of the people, by the people, and for the people ..."
"... 인민 자신으로, 인민 권한으로, 인민 이익 위해 하는 정치 ..."
Also, consider this translation:
"... 인민에서, 인민으로, 인민에게 하는 정치..."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do you think 잘 부탁합니다 is silly, too?

These days you can frequently hear Koreans say "잘 부탁합니다" after their asking someone for a favor. What they want to say is, "Please do your best for me," but that is not what 잘 부탁합니다 means.

부탁하다 means "ask," "beg," or "request," and 잘 means "well," so 잘 부탁합니다 literally means, "I beg well," which sounds as if the person is bragging about his begging abilities. Instead, when you want to ask someone to do their best for you, the "traditional" Korean way is to say one of the following:
  • 청을 잘 들어주십시오. - Please grant my request.
  • 잘 돌봐 주십시오. - Please do your best for me.
  • 많이 도와 주십시오. - Please do everything you can for me.

잘 부탁합니다 supposedly comes from a Japanese expression, but it does not translate well into Korean.

What is a 항아리손님?

항아리 is a kind of "jar," and 손님 means "guest," so together they mean "jar guest," which is one name for the infectious disease, "mumps." Koreans also refer to the mumps as 볼거리, and Korean doctors refer to it as 유행성 이하선염. Supposedly, the word 항아리 (jar) is used in the name because mumps causes one's cheeks to swell up like a 항아리, which is a jar that has a mouth smaller than its belly.

손님 (guest) is also used in the names of other infectious diseases. Small pox is referred to not only as 천연두, but also as 마마, 손님, 손님마마 and 큰손님 (big visitor). Chicken pox (수두) and measles (홍역) are also referred to as 작은마마 and 작은손님 (small visitor). The names show respect for the diseases, as if they were honored guests.

Koreans used to believe the diseases were actually gods or spirts who were offended with them, so it seems the honored names were an attempt to appease the spirits or to avoid offending them in the first place. Since small pox was referred to as the "big visitor" (큰손님), it seems it was feared more than the other diseases.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What does 새벽 오줌 섞인 사람 mean?

It translates as "a person mixed up with morning urine" and is used to refer to a "simpleton" or "moron" (바보, 천치, 백치, 팔푼이, etc.).

I had never seen nor heard this expression until I came across it today among a list of proverbs. I am posting it because it seems it may have been based on an old Korean superstition. Did Koreans use to believe that mentally handicapped children were the result of their being born before the mother had a chance to take her morning pee?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's the difference between 먹냐 and 먹느냐?

Korean dictionaries and grammar books say that 냐/으냐 and 느냐 are "low form" question endings that are usually used among close friends. 냐/으냐 attach to adjectives and to 이다. If the adjective ends in a vowel, 냐 is attached; if it ends in a consonant, 으냐 is attached. 느냐 attaches to verbs, including 있다 and 없다, and to 었/았 and 겠. (없다 is actually an adjective.) The "느" in 느냐 supposedly signals "present tense" when it occurs without other tense markers. See the following examples:
  • 먹느냐? -- Do you eat? / Are you eating?
  • 먹었느냐? -- Did you eat?
  • 먹겠느냐? -- Are you going to eat?
  • 연필이 있느냐? -- Do you have a pencil?
  • 연필이 없느냐? -- Don't you have a pencil?
  • 크냐? -- Is it big?
  • 작으냐? -- Is it small?
  • 책이냐? -- Is it a book?
  • 모자냐? -- Is it a hat?
Notice that in the case of 이냐, the 이 is dropped when the preceding noun ends in a vowel (e.g. 모자냐).

There is also the reflective past tense ending 더냐, which is used when the listener is asked about a personal experience or observation he had in the past . It can be used with both adjectives and verbs. See the following examples:
  • 잘 있더냐? -- Have you been well?
  • 그 어떻더냐? -- How was it?
  • 둥글더냐? -- Was it round?
  • 모나더냐? -- Was it angular?
  • 무엇이더냐? -- What was it?

I think it used to be possible to abbreviate 더냐 to 냐, but that no longer seems to be the case.

Today, many younger Koreans are using 냐 as an abbreviation for 느냐, but such an abbreviation is not recognized by Korean dictionaries. Therefore, 먹냐 and 먹느냐 are both being used to mean, "Are you eating" or "Do you eat," but 먹냐 is considered an incorrect form since 냐 is supposed to be attached only to adjectives.

UPDATE:

HERE is more on 느냐/냐 from 남영신, who is another guy I respect and enjoy reading. He mentions that the 느냐/냐 ending is used a lot in the Jeolla region while the 나 ending is used in the Gyeongsang region. However, according to 이수열, the 느냐/냐 ending and the 나 ending are not really equivalent since 느냐/냐 is considered 낮춤 말 while 나 is considered 반말. In other words, you cannot make the 느냐/냐 ending polite by adding anything, but you can make the 나 ending polite by simply adding "요" (e.g. 벌써 집에 가나요?). 반말 (half speech) is just polite speech with the polite half (i.e. "요") removed. 남영신 also says the 니 ending is used in the Seoul/Gyeonggi region and that it is one of the first things about the Seoul dialect that Koreans learn when they migrate to Seoul.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why is the "Korean Lab" Web site so great?

I have written about the "Korean Lab" Web site before, but I was reminded of it again today, so I thought I would write about it, again.

Korean Lab is a Web site that has Korean language textbooks from grades one through twelve. These are the same kinds of textbooks that Korean children, themselves, learn from, so if you start with grade one and work your way through the books, you will be exposed to the same vocabulary and cultural associations that almost every Korean knows. If you go through these books, you can be assured that the words and cultural associations are known and used. The books for grades one and two even have audio, so you can work on building your listening skills and practicing your pronunciation.

I think children's books are a great way to build vocabulary and word association because they use pictures and stess word associations. Associations are important because they help us remember. If you read a picture book, the pictures will help you remember the words on the page. If you learn a song, the music will help you remember the lyrics. If you watch a scene from a tv soap opera, the image left in your mind will help you remember the lines that were spoken. If you touch or smell something, that will also help you remember the thing you touched or smelled.

Here is a sample lesson from the Grade One book, except that I have added the English translations and notes:

"눈에 눈이 들어가면"
.
눈에 이 들어가면 눈물일까요, 물일까요?
If snow gets in your eye, will it be tears or snow water?
.
.
Note: One of the interesting things about the Korean language is that its distinugishes many words by the length of the vowel sound. For example, "eye" and "snow" are both written as 눈, but the 눈 for snow is pronounced with a longer vowel sound to distinguish it from eye. If you ask a Korean which word has the longer vowel sound, he or she will probably not be able to tell you or will have to think about it, but when speaking, he or she will probably say it correctly, just out of habit.

One of the reasons that foreigners may not be easily understood when they speak Korean, is that they may have failed to lengthen their vowel sounds, so it is good to learn which words are pronounced with long vowel sounds and which are not. If a Korean friend tells you that you do not need to learn it, ignore him because you will never sound like a Korean until you learn them. A good Korean-Korean dictionary (국어사전) will show you which words are pronounced with a long vowel sound by putting ":" after the syllable (ex. 눈: = snow).

The syllables shown in blue are the ones with the long vowel sounds.

을 잘하는 사람이 있습니다.
There are people who speak well.

말을 잘 타는 사람도 있습니다.
There are also people who ride horses well.


Note: The Korean words for "speech" and "horse" are both written as 말, but the word for speech is pronounced with the long vowel sound.
.
낮에도 나무.................... 밤에도 나무
in day a chestnut tree.........at night a chestnut tree

Note: The Korean words for "chestnut" and "night" are both 밤, but the one for "chestnut" is pronounced with the long vowel sound.
.
길을 습니다....................소매를 걷습니다.
Walk on the road................Roll up one's sleeve.

Note: The verbs "to walk" and "to roll up (one's sleeves or skirt)" are both written as 걷다, but the 걷 for walk is pronounced with the long vowel sound.


길을 다.
Ask directions.

땅 속에 묻다.
Bury in the ground
.

.

.

.


bird house


새집
new house






.
어린이
a child

an adult
.
.
.
어요
a small amount
.
적어요
to write down
.
.
...........
bee.........punishment
.
............
island..... a straw bag (of rice)
.
.As you can see from the above examples, long vowel sounds are used throughout the Korean language even if the average Korean does not realize it.
.
When I was working at Asiana Airlines, I worked with a man from Kwangju (광주) who had a heavy accent. When I asked where he was from, it sounded like he say, 강주 instead of 광주. The reason his 광 sounded like 강 was that he was pronouncing it with a very short vowel sound.
.
In Korea, there are two Kwangju's. One is in Jolla Province, and the other is in Gyeonggi Province. The Chinese characters for the Kwangju in Jolla Province are 光州 (광주). 光 (광) is the Chinese character meaning "light" and is pronounced with a short vowel sound. However, the Kwangju in Gyeonggi Province is written with the Chinese character 廣 (광), which means "wide" and is pronounced with a long vowel sound. So if someone tells you he is from Kwangju, be sure to ask him if he is from Kwangju (광주) or from Kwaaaangju (광:주).
.
Don't forget to check out Korea Lab.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What is the Korean Wiki Project?

On the Web site, the Korean Wiki Project is described as follows:
The Korean Wiki Project is a collaborative effort to unify knowledge on the Korean language and to make the information easily accessible and relevant to anyone.
People have mentioned the Korean Wiki Project to me a couple of times in the Comments section, but I just I kind of ignored them because the idea of discussing and writing about the Korean language sounded so good to me that I was afraid I would get too involved and not have time to do another project I want to finish first. The problem is that if I get focused on one thing, it is hard for me to think about other things, and the Korean language is something I can easily get lost in. I write on my blog here when I am bored and have time, but if I get involved in the Korean Wiki Project, I might feel obligated to write even when I do not have time for it. By the way, the fall semester at my school starts on Monday, so I will probably not be writing as much here as I have been.

Anyway, today I clicked on the name of a commenter named Shanna to see if it would lead to a Web site. It lead me to HangukDrama, which looks quite interesting, though I have not had time to look through it all. However, on the site was a video of a guy named Matt talking about his "Korean Learning Journey." The video impressed me not only because Matt seems like a really a nice guy, but also because the start of his Korean Learning Journey reminded me of the start of mine. When I first started learning Korean, I did not know anything about Korea, either, except that it was in Asia and that we had fought a war there. Also, I joined the navy expecting to learn Spanish and was told I would be learning Korean, instead.

I just want to share Matt's video and say that I will be checking out the Korean Wiki Project. Mike is a cofounder of the Web site. I apologize for not really responding to previous comments about the project.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The meaning of "갑돌이가 울면서 떠나는 갑순이를 배웅했다"?

Without commas there are two possible meanings to the sentence. Here is the sentence with the meanings clarified by commas:
  • 갑돌이가 울면서, 떠나는 갑순이를 배웅했다.
    A weeping Kap Doli saw off Kap Suni, who was leaving.
  • 갑돌이가, 울면서 떠나는 갑순이를 배웅했다.
    Kap Doli saw off a weeping Kap Suni, who was leaving.

Of course, in spoken Korean, there would be pauses in place of the commas.

Know any old slang using 똥?

똥 means excrement, feces, poop, or whatever you want to call it. Koreans do not seem to have much of a hangup when it comes to 똥 because it is used in all kinds of expressions. It generally includes the meaning of "being inferior," such as in 똥차, which refers to a car that is always breaking down. Here are a few examples of some old slang and vulgar expressions using 똥. Not every Korean will know these expressions.
  • 똥 -- gold (금)
  • 똥가아지 -- a bargirl
  • 똥같이 노네 -- You are acting childish.
  • 똥개스 -- a fart (방귀)
  • 똥기계 -- a dummy (바보)
  • 똥까스 -- a fart (plays off 돈가스, which means "port cutlet")
  • 똥꿈 -- a lucky dream; a good omen
  • 똥바가지 연애 -- romance with an agricultural major
  • 똥 밟았니 -- Am I crazy?
  • 똥 밟았다 -- "I chose the wrong partner" (in a group date).
  • 똥방위 -- civilian defense soldier (방위병)
  • 똥방 -- one's back pocket
  • 똥배 -- stomach
  • 똥빼다 -- work hard; take pains (애쓰다)
  • 똥보 -- you (너)
  • 똥사다 -- have a hard time (고생하다)
  • 똥 싼 바지 -- loose fitting pants popular with the hip-hop generation
  • 똥찌그리 하다 -- dirty and disgraceful
  • 똥찡기다 -- 1) to dislike something 2) to lose one's nerve (기죽다)
  • 똥차 -- an old, junky car
  • 똥차 옆에서 방귀 뀐다 -- pretend to know something
  • 똥치 -- a prostitute
  • 똥치다 -- to steal
  • 똥치 앞재비 -- a pimp
  • 똥탈 -- an accident; a big problem
  • 똥통 -- you (너); a farmer; an aggricultural college
  • 똥통과 -- Aggriculture Department (in college)
  • 똥통학교 -- an inferior school
  • 똥파리 -- 1) a reporter, 2) a police patrol officer, 3) Wangsipri (왕십리 - a neighborhood in Seoul)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What is this baby thinking?

I think she is thinking, "If I were bigger, I would take that rattle and hit you over the head with it."

What is the Korean word for "baby rattle"? Is it 딸랑딸랑 상자?

Who are 갑돌이 and 갑순이?

"갑돌이와 갑순이" is an old Korean folk song made famous by Serena Kim (김세레나) in 1968. The song was, apparently, a favorite of former Korean President Park Cheong-hee (See HERE). I like the song because it is simple, light-hearted, and gives me a glimpse into the Korean heart. It is as Korean as you could ask for.

If you are interested in Korean culture, I think you need to know this song because 갑돌이 and 갑순이 are names that are used in a lot of jokes, including dirty jokes. Besides, 돌이 and 순이 are suffixes that refer to a man and woman, respectively, and are used in a lot of slang expressions. For example, 공순이 is a slang expression used to refer to "female factory workers," with 공 being an abbreviation of 공장 (factory).

Below are two videos. The first is of Serena Kim singing the song, and the second is of Yu Ji-na (유지나) singing it. I posted the second video because it also shows the lyrics.




"갑돌이와 갑순이"

갑돌이와 갑순이는 한 마을에 살았더래요
둘이는 서로 서로 사랑을 했더래요
그러나 둘이는 마음뿐이래요
겉으로는 음~ 모르는 척 했더래요
오~ 모르는 척 했더래요.

그러다가 갑순이는 시집을 갔더래요
시집간 날 첫날밤에 한없이 울었더래요
갑순이 마음은 갑돌이뿐이래요
겉으로는 음~ 안 그런 척 했더래요
오~ 안그런 척 했더래요.

갑돌이도 화가 나서 장가를 갔더래요
장가간 날 첫날밤에 달 보고 울었더래요
갑돌이 마음도 갑순이 뿐이래요
겉으로는 음~ 고까짓 것 했더래요
오~ 고까짓 것 했더래요.

--------------------

"Kap Doli and Kap Suni"

It is said that Kap Doli and Kap Suni lived in the same village.
It is said that they both loved each other.
But it is said that they kept it only in their hearts.
It is said that outwardly, mmmmmm, they pretended ignorance.

It is said that Kap Suni eventually got married.
It is said that on her wedding night she cried endlessly.
It is said that in Kap Suni's heart, Kap Doli was the only one .
It is said that outwardly, mmmmmm, she pretended he wasn't.

It is said that Kap Doli got angry and also got married.
It is said that on his wedding night he looked at the moon and cried.
It is said that in Kap Doli's heart, Kap Suni was also the only one.
It is said that outwardly, mmmmmm, he (still) did the (sex) thing.

NOTES:
  • 더래(요) is an verb ending that is used to report something that another person has seen or heard in the past.
  • 고까짓 것 essentially means "그 것," which is an indirect way of saying he had sex. When you add 까짓 to such pronouns as 이, 고, 그, 요, 저, and 조, it trivializes them and can make them sound cutesy.
  • I think the last line of the song is supposed to be funny.

POSTSCRIPT: There is an interesting and funny post HERE from someone who does not like the ending to the song and offers several suggestions for improving it. Also, he remembers hearing a fourth verse to the song, but he cannot remember what it was. Maybe, he was talking about the following version of the song, which has added another verse to the original.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do you understand the poem "문둥이"?

The following short poem is entitled "문둥이," which means "Leper." It was written in 1936 by Seo Jeong-ju (서정주).

"문둥이"
-서정주-

해와 하늘빛이
문둥이는 서러워

보리밭에 달 뜨면
애기 하나 먹고

꽃처럼 붉은 울음을
밤새 울었다.

---------

"Leper" - by Seo Jeong-ju

The sun and blue sky
sadden the leper.

A barley field moon,
then he eats a child.

Red cries like flowers,
he weeps through the night.

Korean lepers supposedly used to believe they could cure their illness by eating the flesh of children. It is said that lepers would kidnap children and take them into barley fields to eat them. Whether parents told their children such stories to keep them away from lepers, or farmers told such stories to keep children out of their barley fields, or lepers really did eat children in barley fields, I do not know, but such stories were told.

I have read that "red cries" (붉은 울음) means "sad cries," but I do not know exactly why "red" suggests sadness, and I do not know why it was compared to a flower. Do you know?

By the way, in 1685, a Korean man was executed because he cremated his father, who had died from leprosy. Apparently, cremation was illegal in Joseon Korea at the time. The man said he cremated his father because he had heard it would stop the disease from passing on to the man's descendants. LINK

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What does 빌린 것이 없다 mean?

빌리다 can mean both "to borrow" and "to loan," so Koreans frequently distinguish the two by saying 빌려 오다 or 빌려 받다 for "to borrow" and 빌려 주다 for "to loan." However, in the case of 빌린 것이 없다, one would have to look for other clues in a sentence to figure out its meaning. See the following examples:
  • 나한테 빌린 것이 없다.
    (You) have loaned nothing to me.
  • 나한테서 빌린 것이 없다.
    (You) have borrowed nothing from me.
  • 너한테 빌린 것이 없다.
    (I) have loaned nothing to you.
  • 너한테서 빌린 것이 없다.
    (I) have borrowed nothing from you.

The fact that Koreans use the same word for both "to loan" and "to borrow" is the most likely reason they frequently misuse "loan" and "borrow" when they speak English.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What does "우리 부부" mean?

In Korea, it is quite common to hear a Korean men refer to his wife as "우리 마누라," which literally means "our wife." It does not mean he shares his wife with anyone; it is just his way of referring to his wife. In fact, Koreans are known for using 우리 (our) with a great number of words. They even refer to their language as "우리말," which literally means "our language."

A few days ago I came across the following sentence in a book I am reading:
우리 부부가 그동안 땀을 흘린 보람으로 마침내 내 집을 마련하게 되었습니다.
During that time, after much sweat, my wife and I finally got our own house.
우리 부부 literally means "our husband and wife," but I translated it as "my wife and I" since "our husband and wife" does not make sense in English. Of course, if it were the wife speaking, I would have had to translate it as "my husband and I." Using 우리 부부 as it was used in the above sentence may be common in Korea, but I think it was used incorrectly. Also, notice that the writer wrote 내 집 (my house) instead of 우리 집 (our house). Why did it change from 우리 to 내? Was the writer using 우리 부부 to refer to her husband or to his wife?

I think the writer should have written 남편과 (my husband and I) or 아내와 (my wife and I) in the above sentence instead of 우리 부부가, which should be used only when referring to a group of married people. For example, if you went on a trip with other married couples, you could refer to your group as "우리 부부."

Likewise, I think 우리 마누라 should be used only when a group of friends refer to their wives as a group, not to one individual wife. For example, wouldn't the following sentence make sense?
우리 늦으면 우리 마누라가 혼내겠다.
If we are late, our wives will give us a hard time.
Koreans may not say the above sentence with the meaning I wrote, but why not?

I think it is possible that sometime in the past Koreans confused the meanings of 우리 마누라 and 우리 부부 and have been confusing them ever since.

UPDATE:

I looked up "우리" in my Korean-Korean dictionary and one of the definitions was as follows:
2 [관형사적 용법] '나의'의 뜻으로 쓰는 말. ¶ -- 나라. / -- 어머니. / -- 마누라.
Notice that it said that one meaning of 우리 was "나의," which means "my." Nothing was said about it meaning "our," which is the plural of "my." So, does that mean that when Koreans say "우리 나라" and "우리 학교," they are actually saying "my country" and "my school," not "our country" and "our school"? According to the dictionary, 우리 can mean either "we" or "my," but not "our." Does that make sense?

So, if 우리 means "my" in Korean, what is the Korean for "our"?

The definition for "our" in my Korean dictionary is "우리들의" or "우리의." Therefore, here is a summary of what my dictionaries say:
  • my country - 우리 나라
    our country - 우리의 나라
  • my mother - 우리 어머니
    our mother - 우리의 어머니
  • my wife - 우리 마누라
    our wives - 우리의 마누라

Korea's dictionaries may be describing the current reality of the language, but it seems clear to me that the original meaning of 우리 has been corrupted. I think it is ridiculous to have to put 의 after 우리 to clarify the meaning of "our." If 내 can mean both "I" and "my," then "우리" should also be able to mean both "we" and "our," not "we" and "my."

Koreans need to admit that the word 우리 has been corrupted and start a nationwide campaign to use the correct meaning. The first step should be to remove the "my" definition of 우리 from Korean dictionaries.

By the way, according to the dictionary definition of 우리, the translation of 우리 부부 should, therefore, be "my husband and wife." It sounds like some kind of weird threesome.

Who is Pierre Deporte?

Today, I read in the Chosun Ilbo that a 24-year-old Frenchman named Pierre Deporte would be playing a lead in a new Korean soap opera entitled "Tamra, the Island," which is about a young Englishman who drifts to the Korean island of Jeju sometime in the past. The story was inspired by the story of Dutch explorer Hendrik Hamel, who was shipwrecked on Jeju in the mid 17th century. The old name for Jeju Island was "Tamra" (탐라).

Pierre Deporte, whose Korean name is Hwang Chan-bin (황찬빈), is supposed to be fluent in Korean since he started learning the language at the age of five, when his father married his stepmother, a Korean woman who started teaching him the language. He also came to Korea at a young age and lived for a time.

I was curious to hear how well he spoke Korean and found the following video clip of his speaking on a Chuseok TV special in September 2007. As you will hear in the video, his Korean is very good, but so is the Korean of other foreign men on the show, including a couple of guys from Iran and Turkey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ever been told you were the first customer of the day?

When I first came to Korea in 1977, I was fascinated by the new culture and all the culturally related articles in Korean shops. I would often go into the souvenir, antique, and clothing shops in front of Camp Humphrey just to browse. If I went in the morning, Korean shopkeepers would often tell me that I was their first customer of the day and could, therefore, get a good deal from them. I did not really really expect much of a deal by just being their first customer and would often leave the shops without buying anything. At the time, I did not know that my leaving the store without buying anything portended a bad day of business for the shopkeeper, which was probably one reason that they rarely wished me a good day on my leaving.

Many Koreans used to believe that if they could sell to the first customer to come into their shops, they would have a good business day. If the first customer left without buying anything, they would have a bad day. The Korean expression used to refer to this first sale of the day is 마수를 걸다, which means "to make the first sale of the day." You can also say 마수걸이하다.

Supposedly, the first customer of the day could get the best deal because shopkeepers would be more willing to sacrifice their profit on the first sale to ensure good sales for the rest of the day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

엉겨붙는 것 or 엉겨붙은 것?

Today, I read about the Korean expression 때가 묻다 in the book I have been reading. 때 means "dirt" "filth," or "grime," and 묻다 means "to stick," "to stain," or "to be covered (with)." Therefore, 때가 묻다 means "to be covered or stained with dirt." The expression can also be used figuratively to refer to a person who is no longer pure or has been corrupted in some way.

The book said that you could substitute 묻다 with 끼다 to give a more grime-encrusted impression. Here is how the book explained it in Korean:
'때가 끼다'라고 하면 '묻다' 보다 더 오랫동안 오물이 계속 쌓여서 잘 떨어지지 않을 정도로 엉겨붙는 것을 말하다.

If you say 때가 끼다, you are saying that the grime has collected over a longer period of time than 때가 묵다 and is so solidified that it does not come off easily.

Notice that the writer wrote 엉겨붙는 것을, which means "solidifying" rather than "solidified" (엉겨붙은 것을). In other words, the writer wrote that the grime was still in the process of solidifying rather than already in a state of solidification. Is that what the writer meant to say? I do not think so.

I think the writer meant to say "solidified," which means he should have written it either as 엉겨붙은 것을 or 엉겨붙어 있는 것을.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"동티란...받게 된다는 재앙을"?

Today I read about the Korean expression 동티가 나다, which originally meant "to suffer the wraft of the earth gods" for digging in sacred ground or harming the rocks, trees, or other parts of the land in some way. 동티 referred to the punishment you would incur from the gods. Though some Koreans may still fear the earth gods, the expression can also be used to refer to incurring trouble in general.

Anyway, the Korean explanation was as follows:

'동티'란 건드려서는 안 될 땅을 파거나 돌을 다치거나 나무를 베었을 때 지신이 성을 내어 받게 된다는 재앙을 가리키는 말이다.

The portion of the expression I have highlighted in red caught my eye because nothing was mentioned about what was received (받게 된다). For example, shouldn't it have been written as either "지신이 성을 내어 받게 된 재앙을" or "지신이 성을 내어 벌이 받게 된다는 재앙을"?

If you use 받게 된다, then there should be a full sentence in front of it, shouldn't there? However, since nothing was mentioned about what was received, it is an incomplete sentence, isn't it?

I assume that the writer wanted to say that a "disaster" (재앙) would "be received" (받게 된다는 재앙을), but is such a construction grammatically correct? It doesn't seem right to me, but both my dictionary and the book I am reading wrote it that way.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

듣는 것이 많았다 or 들은 것이 많다?

I am currently reading the Korean idiom book on the left each morning while drinking my morning cup of coffee. It averages a little less than two idiom explanations per page, so it is the kind of book you can pick up and read for only five minutes a day and still benefit from. I usually spend about thirty minutes or more on it each morning.

I like the book, but I often get the feeling that the person explaining the Korean idioms has tried to write the explanations in an English style of Korean rather than a traditional Korean style. Several of the explanations seem awkward, at best. I am confused because the three people who collaborated on the book seem to be qualified, except that the person who actually wrote the explanations was an English Literature major rather than a Korean language major, which might explain the awkwardness.

Anyway, today I came across the following example sentence in the book that made me stop short:
견문이 넓은 그와 동무해서 일을 하다보니 듣는 것이 많았다.
Is 듣는 것이 많았다 correct? Shouldn't it be 들은 것이 많다? Doesn't it look like the writer was trying to write the Korean version of the English present perfect continuous or something?

Anyway, if I had written the sentence, I would have done it as follows:
  • 견문이 넓은 그와 동무해서 일을 하다보니 들은 것이 많다.
    He is well-informed, and I have heard many things after becoming acquainted and working with him.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Does 빠지다 mean "to fall into a trap" or "to escape"?

It think it can mean both. Consider the following examples.
  • 함정에 빠지다.
    Fall into a trap.
  • 함정에서 빠지다.
    Escape from a trap.

Koreans may not actually say 함정에서 빠지다, but they do say 함정에서 빠져나오다 and 함정에서 빠져나가다, which suggests that 함정에서 빠지다 should also be possible. Besides, my dictionary says that 빠지다 also means "escape" (탈출하다). The only difference between "falling into a trap" and "escaping from a trap" would, therefore, be whether one uses the preposition 에 (in) for "falling into a trap" or the preposition 에서 (from) for "escaping from a trap."

I started thinking about this question after reading an explanation for the Korean expression 독 안에 들다.

'독'은 입구가 바닥보다 넓고 배가 볼록하며 양옆에 손잡이가 달린 오지그릇이나 질그릇을 말한다. 주로 장을 담그는 데 쓰인다. '독 안에 든 쥐'라는 말이 있다. 쥐가 실수로 독 안에 빠지면 그곳에서 빠져나올 수 없다. 이와 마찬가지로 '어떤 포위망이나 함정 따위에서 아무리 벗어나려 해도 벗어날 수 없는, 영락없이 붙잡히게 된 처지'를 일컬을 때 이 말을 한다.

As you can see in the above Korean explanation, 빠져나올 수 없다 was used with the meaning of being "unable to escape," which means 빠져나오다 was used with the meaning of "to escape." Moreover, notice that 벗어나다 was also used to mean "escape."

What is the difference between 빠져나오다 and 벗어나다? My guess is that 빠져나오다 is used when one has a "narrow escape" from a near capture while 벗어나다 is used when one escapes after having already been captured. Or is it the other way around or neither? I do not know, so I hope that some of the native Koreans that read this blog will give me their opinions.

빠지다 is a verb that deserves more explanation, but my 10-year-old son is bugging me to take him out to lunch, so I have to stop here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is this baby cying 닭똥 같은 눈물?

In the caption of the video, the mother describes her baby's crying as pretty, but then goes on to describe her tears as 닭똥 같은 눈물, which means "tears like chicken shit." Some people may think "chicken-shit tears" are pretty, but is that baby really crying chicken-shit tears?



닭똥 같은 눈물 are tears that form around the edges of the eyes into big teardrops that eventually succumb to gravity and fall to the ground, supposedly like droppings from a chicken's butt. However, as anyone who has ever watched a chicken poop knows, a person crying chicken-shit tears would need to have his or her head bowed so that the tears drop directly from the eyes to the ground rather than run down the face. Therefore, since the baby in the video is crying while lying on her back, those tears cannot be "chicken-shit tears."

Monday, August 03, 2009

What does 눈이 보이지 않다 mean?

보다 means "to see," and its passive is, 보이다, which means "to be visible." The negative form of 보이다 is 보이지 않다, which means "is not visible." If you wanted to say, "The mountain is not visible," you would say, 산이 보이지 않다." Therefore, wouldn't 눈이 보이지 않다 mean "(Someone's) eyes are not visible"?

My dictionary says that 눈이 보이지 않다 means "to be blind," but if that is the case, then how do you say, "(Someone's) eyes are not visible" because of long hair, a veil, sunglasses or whatever? What's the deal?

My theory is as follows:

눈이 보이지 않다" can mean both "eyes are not visible" and "blind," depending on which 보이다 is used.

There are actually two 보이다s. One is the passive 보이다, which means "to be visible," and the other is the causative 보이다, which means "to show." The passive 보이다 is used when you want to say someone's "eyes are not visible," and the causative 보이다 is used when you want to say someone "is blind."

The causative 보이다 is a transitive verb. That means it can be used with an object. When Koreans say 눈이 보이지 않다 to mean "blind," however, they have omitted the object and are literally just saying, "Eyes do not show." However, the implied meaning is, "The eyes do not show anything," which would be "눈이 아무것도 보이지 않다." A blind person's eyes do not show anything.

Since the sentences for "eyes are not visible" and "blind" are written the same, the only way to distinguish between them would be to look at the surrounding sentences. However, since 눈이 멀다 also means "to be blind," why not use it to mean "blind," and save 눈이 보이지 않다 to mean "eyes are not visible"?

Words and expressions related to "eyesight"