Monday, September 09, 2019

Would you like to know a secret tip for learning Korean?

Get a good Korean-English print dictionary and read it. I like "Dong-a's Prime." Two great things about reading a dictionary is that you don't have to look things up, and you don't have to start from the beginning. It is perfect for those long bathroom breaks.

Everything in a Korean-English dictionary is worth learning, if your plan is to become fluent in Korean. There is so much more in a Korean-English dictionary than many people may realize. For example, you might know the first definition of a word in the dictionary, but do you know its second, third, fourth, or fifth definitions? Are you paying attention to the words and phrases in the backets […] of a definition? Are you paying attention to the word's Chinese characters? If you are not, then you missing a great deal of information.

What's the opposite of 다가오다?

ANSWER: 다와가다

가다 means "to go," and 오다 means to come." One of the differences between Korean and English is that if your friend asked you in English, "Are you coming?" you could answer, "Yes, I'm coming," but in Korean you would have to answer, "Yes, I'm going" (응, 간다), not "Yes, I'm coming" (응, 온다).

다가오다 means someone or something is "coming near you" but is not there, yet. So, if you are on your way to visit a Korean friend and your friend calls you on your cell phone and asks, "다가오니?" it means "Are you almost here?" You cannot answer your friend by saying, "응, 다가온다" since you are still headed toward your friend and must, therefore, use 가다, not 오다. Instead, you could say, "응, 다와간다," meaning "Yes, I'm almost there." In written Korean, you would have to write it as "다 와 간다" since it is still considered a phrase, not a single word.

So, where does the "와" in "다와가다" come from? Here is my theory:

If you had just arrived at your destination when your Korean friend called and asked, "다가오니? ("Are you almost here?"), then you would have answered, "응, 다 왔어," which literally means "Yes, I've come (all the way)" but would be translated into English as "Yes, I'm here." Since you had arrived at your destination and were no longer "going toward it," you could no longer say 다와간다 since it uses the word 가다 (to go).

So, 다와간다 means you are near your destination but are still headed toward it, and 다 왔다 means you have arrived at your destination. That suggests that 다와간다 is a shortened version of "(거의) 다 와서 (아직) 간다," literally meaning "I've come all the way, but am still going."

So, what about the "가" in "다가오다"? Is it a shorted version of "(거의) 다 가서 (아직) 온다," literally meaning "He has gone all the way, but is still coming?"

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

What does 과공비례 (過恭非禮) mean?

ANSWER: "being too polite is impolite"

The following story is used to teach that sometimes “being too polite or deferential (과공 過恭) is impolite (비례 非禮).”
As her daughter’s wedding draws near, a mother instructs her daughter on the proper respect to show her in-laws:
Mother: “Even though they are younger than you, you must always use “nim”(님) to show respect. So, address your sister-in-law’s husband as “Seobang-nim” (서방님) and your unmarried brother-in-law as “Doryeon-nim” (도련님). And never yell at them in front of adults. In fact, don’t even yell at the animals, like the dogs and pigs, in front of adults. Do you understand?”
Daughter: “Yes, mam.”
A few days after the wedding, the new daughter-in-law is outside when the family dog attacks and kills a chicken. On hearing the commotion, the mother-in-law comes outside and asks what happened. The daughter-in-law answers as follows:

“갯님이 닭님을 물어 닭님이 돌아가셨어요.”
“The honorable dog bit the honorable chicken, and the honorable chicken passed away.”

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

What does 경진무과 mean?

ANSWER: 1460 Military Service Exam
In the 6th year of King Sejo (1460), an unusually large number of people (1,800) passed the Military Service Exam (무과 武科) in Pyeongyang, suggesting that standards had been lowered that year. After that, people would make fun of soldiers who couldn’t ride a horse very well or shoot an arrow straight by saying that they must have taken the “1460 Exam” (경진무과 庚辰武科).
Using the 60-year-cycle calendar, 경진 (庚辰) refers to the year 1460, and 무과 (武科) refers to the Military Service Exam.

Today the expression is still used to make fun of soldiers and public officials who mess up.

Naver Dictionary

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What's the difference between 밥맛이 없다 and 밥맛없다?

ANSWER: One means you are not hungry; the other means you can't stand someone.

밥 means "boiled rice" or "food," and 맛 means "taste," so 밥맛 literally means "food taste." That means 밥맛이 있다 literally means "The food tastes good," and 밥맛이 없다 literally means "The food tastes bad," which usually translates as "I'm not hungry," or "I have no appetite."

Even though the subject marker (이 or 가) is often dropped in spoken Korean, you should keep the 이 and say "밥맛이 없다" when you want to say, "I'm not hungry," because 밥맛없다, without the 이, means you do not like someone and do not want to associate with him or her. For example, if a girlfriend is trying to set you up with a guy you do not like, you could say, "그 남자가 밥맛없다," which can translate as "I can't stand that guy." However, if you were to say, "그 남자가 밥맛이 없대," then you would be saying, "He said he is not hungry."

In the United States, when we are eating and then see something so disgusting that it causes us not to want to eat anymore, we sometimes say, "I just lost my appetite." Also, if we are eating and someone at the dinner table does or says something we do not like, we sometimes show our displeasure by saying, "I've just lost my appetite," and then get up and leave the table. The Korean expression 밥맛없다 is also used to express one's displeasure.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What's the difference between 매우 어렵게 and 어렵사리?

ANSWER: There is no difference in meaning, but one seems easier to say.

My dictionary says that 어렵사리 means "매우 어렵게," which means that it is an adverb that translates as "very difficultly" or "very strenuously," but it does not tell me what "사리" means. I can, of course, guess that 사리 means "very" (매우), but why isn't that definition in my dictionary?

My dictionary also says that the word 쉽사리 means "아주 쉽게," which means that it is an adverb that means "very easily" or "quite easily." So, the 사리 in both 쉽사리 and 어렵사리 seems to mean either 매우 or 아주, both of which can translate as "very."

Anyway, why isn't there a definition for -사리 in my dictionary? I suspect it is because scholars are still unsure of the origin of -사리 and are, therefore, not confident enough to list it as a suffix meaning "very," especially since it seems to only be used to make adverbs out of 어렵다 and 쉽다.

So, why do some Koreans prefer to say 어렵사리 and 쉽사리 instead of 매우 어렵게 and 아주 쉽게? I am not sure, but 어렵사리 and 쉽사리 do seem to roll off the tongue much easier than 매우 어렵게 and 아주 쉽게.

By the way, I found it interesting that my dictionary used 매우 with 어렵게 and 아주 with 쉽게 to define 어렵사리 and 쉽사리. I am not sure of the difference between 매우 and 아주, but, for some reason, 아주 쉽게 sounds more natural than 매우 쉽게." I am not sure if 매우 어렵게 sounds more natural than 아주 어렵게, or if there is a difference in meaning, but it makes me wonder what slight difference there might be between 매우 and 아주, something I might write about later.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Is the Chinese character 的 (적) destroying the Korean language?

ANSWER: Maybe not, but Koreans do seem to use it too much.

In his book “우리글 바로쓰기,” the late writer and author Lee O-deok (이오덕) mentioned six Chinese characters that he believed were destroying the Korean language: 的(적), 化(화), 下(하), 再(재), 諸(제), and 對(대).
I disagree with some of what Mr. Lee wrote about the six Chinese characters, but I do think Koreans use 적 (的) way too much. The following is an example from Mr. Lee’s book in which 적 was used five times in just one short sentence in a 1989 Hankyoreh (한겨래) newspaper article talking about a painting:
이 대작은 ‘형식적으로는 추상적이나 내용적으로는 표현주의적’인 추상표현주의 화가의 작품 세계를 단적으로 보여 준다.
Here is Mr. Lee’s rewrite of the sentence:
이 큰 작품은 ‘형식으로는 추상(화)이나 내용으로는 표현주의’인 추상표현주의 화가의 작품 세계를 바로 보여 준다.
Notice that 적 does not appear even once in Mr. Lee’s rewrite of the sentence. Why? Because it is unnecessary. Even 단적(端的)으로 was reduced from a 4-syllable phrase to a 2-syllable one by using the pure Korean word 바로 instead.
However, notice that Mr. Lee also changed “이 대작은” to “이 큰 작품은.” This is one of the times where I disagree with Mr. Lee because 대작 (大作) translates as “a great work” or “masterpiece,” but 큰 작품 could also refer to the physical size of the work, making its meaning less clear.
Anyway, there is a movement in Korea to try to eliminate Chinese characters, or at least as many as possible, from the Korean language, similar to what was done in North Korea, but Mr. Lee did not seem to be that extreme. Here seemed to want to get rid of only the Chinese characters that were unnecessary or that were making it harder for Koreans to understand their own language. For example, he wondered why some Koreans would choose to use the difficult to pronounce and understand 의의(意義) instead of the simpler pure Korean word 뜻. He suggested that some Koreans use difficult words just to show off instead of speaking and writing in the clearest way possible.
Mr. Lee essentially believed that Koreans should write the way they speak, and speak the way they live.

You can click on the 미리보기 (Preview) button on the linked page HERE to get an idea of what Mr. Lee wrote about in his Korean book.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Which is bigger, a 갈치 or a 풀치?

ANSWER: A 갈치 is bigger because a 풀치 is just a baby 갈치, and a 갈치 is long thin fish known in English as a “hairtail” or “cutlass fish.” LINK

So, I have a question. If Koreans have a specific name for a baby cutlass fish, why don’t they have a specific name for a baby cat (kitten) besides 새끼 고양이? And what are the Korean names for a baby sheep and a baby goat besides 새끼 양 and 새끼 염소?
My English-Korean dictionary defines 새끼 as follows:
새끼 1) [새의] a chicken; a chick; a young bird; a brood (한배의); [동물의] the young (총칭); a cub; [말의] a foal; a colt; [개의] a pup; a puppy; [괭이의] a kitten, a kitty; [양의] a lamb; [염소의] a kid; [물고기의] a fry
So, 새끼 is just a general term (총칭) for the “young” of animals. But Koreans also have specific words to refer to the young of many of the animals mentioned in the definition above. So why aren't there specific Korean words for "kitten," "lamb," and "kid" besides those that use 새끼?
Korean words for specific baby animals:
  • Bear: 능소니 (a cub)
  • Chicken: 병아리 (a chick)
  • Cow: 송아지 (a calf)
  • Dog: 강아지 (a puppy)
  • Dolphin: 가사리 (a calf)
  • Fish: 모이 (a fry)
  • Frog: 올챙이 (a tadpole)
  • Horse: 망아지 (a foal)
  • Pheasant: 꺼병이 (a chick)
  • Tiger: 개호주 (a cub)

 For some reason, Koreans have specific names for the babies of certain fish. Some are listed HERE.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

What's the difference between 대접 (待接) and 접대 (接待)?

ANSWER: They are the same in one respect and different in another.

The problem with 대접 (待接) and 접대 (接待) is that they each have two definitions, and one of the definitions is the same for both. Here is how my Korean-Korean dictionary defines them:
대접: 1) 손님을 맞아 음식을 차려 올려 먹게 함. 접대. – the act of receiving guests and preparing food for them to eat. [Also,] 접대.
접대: 1) [Also,] 대접

So, the first definition for both 대접 and 접대 is “the act of receiving guests and preparing food for them to eat.” That means the two words are synonyms in this regard and can be used interchangeably. This meaning could be translated as "to entertain guests with food." It is their second definitions where the words differ:
대접: 2) 어떤 인격적 수준으로 사람을 대우하거나 대함. – treating or dealing with people using some characteristic standard.
접대: 2) 손님을 맞이하여 시중을 듦. – receiving guests and waiting on them.
So, the second definition for 대접 seems to be just the general meaning of the word “to treat.” In other words, one could treat someone well, badly, politely, impolitely, or even like a dog.

The second definition of 접대 could be translated as “to greet and wait on guests,” including guests at a restaurant or bar. In fact, the Korean word 접대부 can be translated as “hostess” and refers to a woman who greets people at a restaurant or bar.

So, if one is entertaining at one's home, 대접 seems to imply that the host or hostess supplies the food and lets the guests help themselves, while 접대 seems to imply that the host or hostess not only supplies the food but is also running around waiting on the guests, such as at a big party.

Monday, August 05, 2019

What does the 푸 in 푸대접 mean?

ANSWER: I'm not sure, but I have a theory. 

But first, I have a few questions about the Korean language: 
  1. What is the difference between 대접(待接) and 접대(接待), besides just the switching of the Chinese characters? My dictionary says that both 대접하다 and 접대하다 can be translated as “to treat” or “to entertain,” so when do Koreans use one and not the other?
  2. The Chinese character 不 (부) means “not,” so if 대접 (待接) means “hospitality,” then 부대접 should mean “inhospitality,” but Koreans do not say 부대접; instead they say 푸대접. Why? Does 푸 mean “not”?
  3. If Koreans can use 푸대접 to mean “cold or unkind treatment” or “inhospitality,” why can’t they also say 푸접대?
  4. The Korean word 푸접없다 means “unfriendly or cold and distant treatment.” That implies there should be a 푸접있다 or at least a 푸접, and, indeed, there is such a word. 푸접 means “to treat someone in a warm and friendly way,” and that implies that the 푸 in 푸접 means “warm and friendly. So my final question is the following:

    Why does 푸대접 mean “cold, unfriendly treatment” instead of “warm and friendly treatment," considering that the 푸 seems to mean "warm and friendly"? Could 푸 come from 품, which means "to hug someone"?

I think 푸접 is just an abbreviated form of 푸대접 and that, somewhere along the way, Koreans got the word 푸대접, meaning "warm and friendly treatment," confused with 부(不)대접, meaning "inhospitality." Like Americans, Koreans sometimes confuse the sounds of 푸 and 부.

Moreover, I think 푸대접 was once 품대접, meaning "hospitality that begins or ends with hugs." After all, hugs are warm and friendly.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

What does 모금 mean?

ANSWER: a sip, a gulp, or a draft

In my Chinese character dictionary, which lists over 8,000 characters, there is only one character pronounced "끽" (喫). That character can mean "to eat" or "to drink." So, cowards "eat fear" (끽겁 喫怯), parents with teenagers “eat suffering” (끽고 喫苦), the English “drink tea” (끽다 喫茶), smokers “eat smoke” (끽연 喫煙), we all “eat food” (끽반 喫飯), and some of us “eat and drink to the brim” (만끽 滿喫).
The reason I mention this is that I just read in a Korean book that when Deng Xiaoping (등소평 鄧小平) was asked his secret to longevity, he answered "喫煙" (끽연). I am not going to tell you the name of the book because no one really cares, right? I will just say that it is a good book.
Anyway, it makes me wonder why Koreans consider 모금 to be the standard spelling of the Korean word for "a sip," "a gulp," or "a draft." Since 먹다 is the pure Korean word for "to eat," it seems that 먹음 (or 머금) would be the more correct spelling. But Koreans consider 먹음 to be a dialectic form of the word, not the standard form.
By the way, the expression 끽다거 (喫茶去) literally means "drink (喫) tea (茶) and go (去)," which could be translated into Korean as either "차 한잔 마시고 가세요" or 차 한잔 드시고 가세요. 드십시오 is used as the polite form of 마시다 and comes from the verb 들다, which can mean either "to eat" or "to drink." Apparently, using 마시십시오 as the polite form of "to drink" is considered too awkward for many, probably because there are too many 시's in it. However, if you wanted to use the polite form of 마시다 to say "Breathe in the fresh air," you would say, "신선한 공기를 마시십시오," not "드십시오."

The following song is entitled "끽다거":

여보게 세상살이 다 밀어놓고

차나 한잔 드시게나
생이란 무생사는 원래가 허망한 것
맘자락 편히 내려놓고 만상을 들쳐보게나

여보게 세간살이 면이란 다 그런것
있으나 없으나 모두 버리고갈 유산인데
우에 그리 얽메이나
여보게 세상살이 다 밀어놓고
차나 한잔 드시게나 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

What is the origin of the pure Korean word "우리" (we)?

ANSWER: Probably 울, which means "the family" or "the clan"

Koreans seem to be unsure of the origin of "우리" (we), but I think it comes from the pure Korea word "울." My dictionary defines "울" as "relatives," "family," "kinsfolk," or "clan," which has always been the core component of Korean society. So, you only have to add the subject marker "이" to "울" to get "울이," which is naturally pronounced /우리/.

When Koreans first started saying "우리," I think they were using it to mean "the family" or "the clan." Therefore, the phrase "우리 친구" would have been the pronunciation of "울의 친구," which would have meant "a friend of the family" or "a friend of the clan." And "우리 남편" would have meant "the husband of the family," and, of course, "우리 아내" or "우리 마누라" would have meant "the wife of the family."

Monday, July 22, 2019

Is the following video funny?


What is the Korean for "to throw one's hat into the ring"?

ANSWER: 출사표를 던지다

When one "throws one's hat into the ring," it means the person wants to challenge someone in a contest or something. Today the expression is often used in politics to mean a political candidate wants to challenge the current officeholder, but originally it was used to challenge someone to a boxing match. In other words, someone outside a boxing ring could throw his hat into the ring to challenge the champion there.

In the Korean expression 출사표를 던지다, the verb "던지다" means "to throw," but 출사표 (出師表) does not mean "hat."

The phrase 출사 (出師) means "to dispatch troops." The Chinese character 出 (출) means "to send out" or "to dispatch," and 師 (사) means "troops," though today 師 is more commonly used to mean "teacher" or "master" (스승).  The 표(表) in the expression means "memorial" (장표 章表), which were written documents the Chinese used to communicate with their emperors. So, 출사표 (出師表) literally means "a memorial to dispatch troops."

One of the problems with using 출사표를 던지다 to mean "throw one's hat in their ring" is that the Chinese would have never "thrown" their memorials at their emperors, at least none who wanted to live.

By the way, there is a really cool Korean song called "출사표" that starts at about the 2:50 mark in the following first video. The first video includes the Korean lyrics with English translations. The second video is a live performance, which is also cool.

The song seems to suggest that a young person has decided to finally leave home to take on the challenges of the world. In other words, the person has decided to throw his or her hat into the ring.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

How do you say "ants in [your] pants" in Korean?

ANSWER: 좀이 쑤시다

When a person cannot sit still because of some anxiety, impatience, or excess energy, we might ask the person in English, "Do you have ants in your pants?" Well, the Korean equivalent seems to be "(너를) 좀이 쑤시니?" which literally translates as either "Are bugs prickling you?"

The transitive verb 쑤시다 can translate as "to tingle" or "to prickle," and the pure Korean word 좀 can be used as a general term for "bug" (곤충), or as a shortened form of 좀벌레, which is an insect known in English as "a silverfish."

Would you sit still if the following bug was crawling around on your body?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

What's the Korean word for "pee shivers"?


In an article, HERE, which NBC News jokingly refers to as "yellow journalism,"  the phrase "pee shivers" is described as follows:
When grown men and little boys urinate, occasionally our entire body is abruptly racked with a mysterious, internal blast of cold that makes us visibly shudder from the shoulders down. It typically occurs near the end of the task, lasting roughly one frigid second.
The phrase 진저리 나다 can be used to refer not only to the uncontrollable shivers boys and men sometimes get after urinating but also to the shivers people sometimes get when they are afraid.

By the way, what are 1800 Korean expressions every Korean fifth grader should know?

Click on THIS LINK and find out. Do not be afraid. It is just a link to a new and interesting Korean children's book entitled "초등 국어 표현력 사전," which I will creatively translate as "Dictionary of Expressions Every Korean Elementary School Student Should Know." The linked page shows you an extensive free preview of the 392-page book.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

What does 맞팔 mean?

ANSWER: follow each other

In the video below, the young man mentions 맞팔 when talking about replying to posts on Instagram and Twitter, two social media platforms that I do not use. Anyway, he says the 팔 part of 맞팔 is an abbreviation of 팔로우, which is just the Korean pronunciation of the English word follow. Since the Korean language does not have an "F" sound, Koreans often use syllables starting with the letter ㅍ to approximate it.

The 맞 part of 맞팔 is a Korean prefix that can mean each other, so if a Korean friend says, 트위터에서 맞팔하자, he or she is saying, "Let's follow each other on Twitter."

The guy also mentions 잘 보고 가요, which he says is a "common stock phrase" that Koreans use on Twitter and Instagram to mean "Nice post."  However, since there is no past tense in the expression, it literally means, "I will enjoy looking [at it] and leave," which seems a strange way to say, "Nice post." Why not just write, "잘 봤어요," which means "I enjoyed looking at it"? Because the 가요 part of the expression means the commenter is just passing through and will not be staying around to engage in dialog and, therefore, does not expect a reply.

Also, the guy says that someone who writes 잘 보고 가요 might not always be a real person, and suggests that the comment could just be a bot trying to get you to follow a link to a particular Web site.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

What does the word 행리 (行李) mean?

ANSWER: baggage or luggage

行 (행) means “walk” or “travel,” and 李 (리) means “plum,” so the Korean word 행리 (行李) literally means “walking plums” or “travelling plums,” which for some reason translates as “baggage” or “luggage.”
This suggests that Koreans and Chinese used to travel pretty light, carrying mainly their walking fruits.

I am unsure of the origin of the word 행리, but I can imagine a mother sending her son off on a long trip with a bundle of plums to eat along the way. 
I do not know if Koreans still use the word 행리 (行李), but the Chinese in Taiwan apparently do use it.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Is this guy a good teacher?

ANSWER: I think he's a great teacher.

But I think he mistakenly explained 맞히다, which really means ""to  guess or do something correctly," not "to make something correct." For example, the sentence "정답을 맞혀봐요," means "Try to guess the correct answer," not "Try to make the correct answer."

In his spoken explanation he does say, "to guess something correctly," but the writing on the screen is "to make something correct," which is wrong.

So, the verb 맞히다 means "to guess or do something correctly," including "hitting a target," and the verb 맞추다 means "to match something" or "to fit something," which often requires some adjustment.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Is the man in the linked video below saying Sentence A or Sentence B?

A: 네 속에 내가 있고 내 속에 네가 있다.
"I'm inside you, you're inside me."
B: 내 속에 네가 있고, 네 속에 내가 있다.
"You're inside me, I'm inside you."
Even if you can distinguish between 내 and 네 in the above sentence, it still seems to be a losing battle in Korea, which is why I have given up and just pronounce 네 as /니/.
Or why not say 너이 instead of 네, which would mean 네가 would be pronounced as 너이가? It would eliminate the need to have dog-like hearing to distinguish between 내가 and 네가.
From what I have read, Korean used to have only one subject marker--"이"--but sometime in the 17th century, Koreans also started using "가. So, before the use of 가, nouns such as 말 (horse) and 소 (cow) would have been made into subject nouns by adding the subject marker 이 to both of them. So, instead of saying 말이 and 소가, they would have said 말이 and 소이. Likewise, if they added the subject marker 이 to the pronouns 나 and 너, that would have resulted in 나이 and 너이.
So, when 가 was introduced, instead of saying 나가 and 너가, Koreans may have just added 가 to 나이 and 너이, resulting in 나이가 and 너이가, which became 내가 and 네가? From what I have read, people in some regions of Korea still use 이가 as a subject marker. For example, supposedly some people in North Gyeongsang Province still say 오늘이가 for "today" instead of just 오늘이.
Anyway, would it really be so bad to say 너이가 instead of 네가? When you write it, of course, you would still write 네가.