Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why 조카딸 instead of 계집조카 for the word "niece"?

조카 means "nephew," and 딸 means "daughter," so why does 조카딸 mean "niece" instead of "nephew's daughter"?

My Korean dictionary says 조카 is "the son of a brother or sister," and 조카딸 is "the daughter of a brother or sister." There is no word 조카아들, so it appears Koreans attached "daughter" (딸) to "nephew" (조카) to make the word "niece," more evidence men come first in Korean society. But why did they attach the word "daughter" (딸) instead of "girl" (계집)? Doesn't "girl nephew" (계집조카) make more sense than "nephew's daughter" (조카딸)?

There are two Chinese characters that mean "nephew": 姪 (질) and 甥 (생). The difference between them is 姪 (질) is "the son of a brother," and 甥 (생) is "the son of a sister," which means both can translate as "nephew." My Chinese character dictionary says the word 姪女 (질녀) can translate as "a brother's daughter" (형제의 딸), which means "niece." Moreover, the character 甥 (생) can also mean "brother-in-law" (처남), so the word 甥女 (생녀) literally means "brother-in-law's (甥) daughter (女)," which means she is also "a sister's daughter" or "niece." Therefore, the word 조카딸 seems to come from the Chinese words, which mean "brother or sister's daughter."


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How is 㔖 pronounced?


Has anyone ever seen the above Chinese character? It was actually created in Korea as a "transliteration character (音譯字 - 음역자), a character used to represent a syllable sound in pure Korean words, place- and personal names. It represents the Korean sound /각/ by taking the Chinese character 加 (가) and adding the Korean consonant ㄱ, which means it was created after Hangeul was invented. So, if Hangeul was already invented, why not just write 각 instead of inventing a transliteration character? The same question could be asked about the transliteration character 㔔 (강).

Below is a link to other Korean transliteration characters:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What's the difference between 부인(夫人) and 사모(師母)?

Both 부인(夫人) and 사모님(師母님) are respectful terms used to refer to another man's wife, but while 부인 can be used to refer respectfully to any other man's wife, 사모님 was originally used to refer respectfully to the wife of a teacher or mentor.

부인(夫人) literally means "a husband's (夫) person (人)" or "a man's (夫) person (人)," but even though the literal meaning sounds more like the description of a servant than a wife, 부인 is still considered to be a polite reference to another man's wife. If you wanted to be really polite, you could say 영부인 (令夫人), which could translate as "beautiful (영) wife (夫人)," "good (令) wife (夫人)," or "esteemed (令) wife (夫人)."

Besides meaning "to command" or "to order," 令 (령) can, strangely, also mean "beautiful" or "good." It can also be used as an "honorific title," which is why 영부인 (令夫人) could also be translated as "esteemed (令) wife (夫人)." Even though Koreans seem to use 영부인 more to refer to the wife of a president, there is no reason it cannot be used to refer to the wife of any person you respect. In other words, using 영부인 to refer to a Korean friend's wife may get a smile from your friend and an embarrassed giggle from his wife, but both would still likely appreciate the polite gesture.

As for 사모님 (師母님), even though it literally means "teacher's (師) mother (母)," it was originally used to refer respectfully to the wife of a person's teacher or mentor. Because a teacher is highly regarded in Korean society, 사모님 is generally considered to be more polite than 부인, but 부인 is still considered to be a polite reference. Generally, a teacher or mentor is an older person, so 사모님 can be used to refer to an older friend's wife, but it would probably sound strange if used to refer to a younger friend's wife. In other words, 부인 can be politely used with anyone, but 사모님 should be used only to refer to the wife of an older person or friend, especially if that person or friend is your teacher or mentor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What does 미망인 (未亡人) mean?

未亡人 (미망인) literally means "still not (未) dead (亡) person (人)," but my dictionary defines it as "a widow" or "a widowed lady." It also gives the example 전쟁 미망인, which it defines as "a war widow." What bothers me about the definition is that the word literally means "undead (未亡) person (人)," not "undead (未亡) wife (妻)." The Chinese character for "wife" is 妻 (처), so why wasn't it used instead of 人 (인),  which means "people"? Besides, doesn't 과부 (寡婦) already mean "widow"?

I have not really researched the word 미망인 (未亡人), but it seems like a better definition than "widow" would be "survivor," which could include anyone still living, man or woman. If 미망인 were translated as "survivor, then 전쟁 미망인 would mean "war (전쟁) survivors (미망인)," referring to people who did not die in the war. Anyway, I have a feeling that sometime in the distant past the word 미망인 was mistranslated.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Why is 唜 pronounced as both "말" and "끗" ?

Koreans created the character to represent the pure Korean syllable sound of "끗" or "끝," both of which are pronounced /끋/. The character was used for pure Korean personal and place names. The 末 (말) portion of the character means "end," which translates in Korean as "끝," so when it is used to mean "end," the character is pronounced "말," but when it is used to represent the pure Korean syllable sound, it is pronounced "끗."

The 叱 (질) portion of the character means "to scold" or "to shout at," but, when used as part of other characters, it is used to  represent the ending consonants "ㅅ," "ㅆ," "ㅈ," "ㅊ," or "ㅌ," all of which are pronounced /ㄷ/ when they come at the end of a Korean syllable. The 叱 essentially tells us the character is being used to represent a pure Korean syllable sound ending in one of the ending consonants just mentioned, and 末 tell us the sound is the same as the pure Korean word that means "end," which could be 끝 or 끗 since both words have the same sound. I am a little suspicious of the character being used to mean "end" since the character 末 (말) means the same thing and is much easier to write.

Here is a list of other characters with 叱 (질) in them that represent pure Korean syllable sounds that end in one of the following consonants: "ㅅ," "ㅆ," "ㅈ," "차," or "ㅌ." Even though all the syllable sounds shown below end in ㅅ, the characters also represent the sounds of any syllables ending in one of the consonants just mentioned since the ending consonant sound would be the same as those that end in "ㅅ."
  • 㖙 (갓) -- 加 (가) + 叱 (질) = the sound /갓/
  • 㖋 (갯) -- 介 (개) + 叱 (질) = the sound /갯/
  • 唟 (것) -- 去 (거) + 叱 (질) = the sound /것/
  • 㖜 (곳) -- 高 (고) + 叱 (질) = the sound /곳/; the 叱 replaces the 冋 (경)
  • 㖛 (곳) -- 古 (고) + 叱 (질) = the sound /곳/
  • 廤 (곳) -- 庫 (고) + 叱 (질) = the sound /곳/
  • 蒊 (곳) -- 花 (화) + 叱 (질) = the sound /곳/; 花 means "flower" (꽃), so why not /꼿/?
  • 㖌 (굿) -- 仇 (구) + 叱 (질) = the sound /굿/
  • 莻 (늦) -- 艿 (잉) + 叱 (질) = the sound /늦/; 莻 (늦) also means "늦다" (late), so /늦/
  • 㘏 (돗) -- 道 (도) + 叱 (질) = the sound /돗/
  • 㖍 (둣) -- 斗 (두) + 叱 (질) = the sound /둣/
  • 㖚 (붓) -- 付 (줄) + 叱 (질) = the sound /붓/
  • 㕾 (솟) -- 小 (소) + 叱 (질) = the sound /솟/
  • 㘒 (씻/씨) -- 種 (종) + 叱 (질) = the sound /씻 or 씨/; 種 (종) means "seed," or "씨" in pure Korean
  • 厑 (앳) -- 厓 (애) + 叱 (질) = the sound /앳/; the 叱 replaces the 圭 (규)
  • 旕 (엇) -- 於 (어) + 叱 (질) = the sound /엇/
  • 㖳 (엿) -- 汝 (여) + 叱 (질) = the sound /엿/
  • 㖲 (엿) -- 如 (여) + 叱 (질) = the sound /엿/
  • 夞 (욋) -- 外 (외) + 叱 (질) = the sound /욋/
  • 㗡 (잇) -- 芿 (잉) + 叱 (질) = the sound /잇/; the 叱 replaces the "ㅇ" ending sound
  • 㗯 (잣) -- 者 (자) + 叱 (질) = the sound /잣/
  • 巼 (팟) -- 巴 (파) + 叱 (질) = the sound /팟/
  • 喸 (폿) -- 甫 (포) + 叱 (질) = the sound /폿/
When 叱 (질) is at the top of a character, it seems to represent syllables with initial double consonant sounds. Consider the following:
  • 㖰 (똥) -- 叱 (질) + 同 (동) = the sound /똥/
  • 哛 (뿐) -- 叱 (질) + 分 (분) = the sound /뿐/
However, even though 叱 (질) at the top of the character 㖎 (갯), the character is pronounced "갯," not "깻," which makes me suspicious, especially since the character 㖋 (갯) already represents the sound "갯." In other words, why would they need 㖎 (갯) if they already have 㖋 (갯)? There may be no need for the "깻" sound now, but maybe there was a need in the distant past. Anyway, it makes me wonder.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why does 춘하추동 (春夏秋冬) start with 춘?

When listing the seasons of the year, Koreans often say "춘하추동 (春夏秋冬)," which literally means "spring (春) summer (夏) fall (秋) winter (冬)." The reason they start with "spring" (春) is that "spring" is the first three months in the lunar calendar. Since there are twelve months in a lunar year, the four seasons are three months each. Using a solar calendar, 일월 (一月) would translate as "January," 이월 (二月) as "February," and 삼월 (삼월) as "March," but using a lunar calendar, 일월 (一月) would translate as "the first month of spring," 이월 (二月 as "the second month of spring," and 삼월 (三月) as "the third month of spring." That means that 사월 (四月) would translate as "April" using the solar calendar, but could translate as "the first month of summer" using the lunar calendar, or simply "the fourth month of the lunar calendar." Confusing? Here is another way that can be used to refer to the months of a lunar calendar.

If you want to list a progressive series of three in Chinese, you can use the characters 孟 (맹), 仲 (중), and 季 (계).  The character 孟 (맹) means "first"; 仲 (중), "next" or "second"; and 季 (계), "last," so the lunar months can also be written as follows:
  1. 孟春 (맹춘) -- "the first month of spring."
  2. 仲春 (중춘) -- "the second month of spring"
  3. 季春 (계춘) -- "the last month of spring"
  4. 孟夏 (맹하) -- "the first month of summer"
  5. 仲夏 (중하) -- "the second month of summer"
  6. 季夏 (계하) -- "the last month of summer"
  7. 孟秋 (맹추) -- "the first month of fall"
  8. 仲秋 (중추) -- "the second month of fall"
  9. 季秋 (계추) -- "the third month of fall"
  10. 孟冬 (맹동) -- "the first month of winter"
  11. 仲冬 (중동) -- "the second month of winter"
  12. 季冬 (계동) -- "the last month of winter.

What does "손돌바람" mean?

Originally, "Sondol's Wind" (손돌바람) referred to a cold, hard wind that begins blowing about the 20th day of the 10th month of the lunar calendar. Though the 9th, 10th, and 11th months of the solar calendar would be considered the months of autumn, the 10th month of the lunar calendar is considered the first month of winter, so it would not be unusual for a cold, hard wind to blow during the first month of winter. The question some people may ask, however, is why would it begin blowing on the 20th day of the first month of winter?

According to one story, during the time of Korea's Goryeo Dynasty (918 - 1392 A.D.), a sailor named "Sondol" (손돌 - 孫乭) was rowing a boat carrying the king when somewhere between "Tongjin (통진 - 通津) and Ganghwa (강화 - 江華) heavy wind and waves began to put the boat in danger. The king, for some reason, blamed Sondol (손돌) for the danger they were in and had him killed. The blame and punishment was considered unfair, so, afterwards, when there was a cold, hard wind blowing at about the same time each year, people began calling it "Sondol's wind," which translates in Korean as either 손돌바람 or 손돌풍 (孫乭風). Sondol (손돌) was apparently killed sometime around the 20th day of the 10th month of the lunar calendar. Now, however, 손돌바람 can be used to refer to any "cold, hard wind" anytime of the year. There is also the expression 손돌이추위, which translates as "Sondol's (손돌이) cold (추위)."

Even without knowing that Sondol (손돌 - 孫乭) was a simple oarsman on a boat, one could have guessed his low social status by his name because the word "돌" was commonly used in the names of male servants. The female equivalent would be "순." For example, some people may have heard stories, songs, or jokes using the names 갑돌이 and 갑순이, names that people seem to associate with simple people from the countryside.

What does the word 돌 (乭) mean? Besides being used for the name of a person, it is also the sound for the pure Korean word for "rock." The Korean alphabet was not invented until the Joseon Dynasty, so since the story of "Sondol" (손돌) happened during the Koryeo Dynasty, the dynasty before Joseon, Sondol's name would have had to be written in Chinese characters. The Chinese character for "rock" is 石 (석), so sometimes "Sondol's wind" has been written as 손석풍 (孫石風) instead of 손돌풍 (孫乭風). The problem with the word 손석풍 is that the sailor's name was 손돌, not 손석. To solve this problem, Koreans invented a new Chinese character, one to represent the Korean sound /돌/.

Notice the Chinese character 乭 (돌) is made up of the Chinese character for "rock" (石) and 乙 (을). The Chinese character 乙 (을) was often used to represent the Korean letter "ㄹ" before "Hangeul"  was invented. The combination of 石 and 乙 was a way of saying that 乭 should be pronounced using the pronunciation for the pure Korean word for "rock" (도+ㄹ= 돌). In other words, 乭 (돌) was created to represent the sound /돌/, not the meaning "rock." Why would Koreans create a new character for "rock" when there was already one?

Here are other examples of characters Koreans have created to represent the sounds of Korean syllables ending in "ㄹ":
  • 㐓 (갈) -- 可(가) + 乙(을) = the sound /갈/
  • 乫 (갈) -- 加(가) + 乙(을) = the sound /갈/
  • 乬 (걸) -- 巨(거) + 乙(을) = the sound /걸/
  • 㐦 (걸) -- 擧(거) + 乙(을) = the sound /걸/
  • 㐣 (골) -- 庫(고) + 乙(을) = the sound /골/
  • 㐇 (굴) -- 九(구) + 乙(을) = the sound /굴/
  • 㐝 (굴) -- 拘(구) + 乙(을) = the sound /굴/
  • 㐎 (글) -- 文(문) + 乙(을) = the sound /글/; 文(문) = "writing" or "글" in pure Korean
  • 㐞 (길) -- 其(기) + 乙(을) = the sound /길/
  • 㐟 (길) -- 非(비) + 乙(을) = the sound /길/; seems it should be "빌," not "길"
  • 㐐 (놀) -- 奴(노) + 乙(을) = the sound /놀/
  • 㐗 (놀) -- 老(노) + 乙(을) = the sound /놀/
  • 㐑 (돌) -- 冬(동) + 乙(을) = the sound /돌/; exchange the "ㅇ" for "ㄹ"
  • 乧 (둘) -- 斗(두) + 乙(을) = the sound /둘/
  • 㐙 (둘) -- 豆(두) + 乙(을) = the sound /둘/
  • 㐢 (뜰) -- 浮(부) + 乙(을) = the sound /뜰/; 浮(부) = "to float" or "뜨다" in pure Korean
  • 朰 (몰) -- 木(목) + 乙(을) = the sound /몰/
  • 乶 (볼) -- 甫(보) + 乙(을) = the sound /볼/
  • 㐊 (사) -- 士(사) + 乙(을) = the sound /살/
  • 乷 (살) -- 沙(사) + 乙(을) = the sound /살/
  • 㐥 (설) -- 鋤(서) + 乙(을) = the sound /설/
  • 㐒 (솔) -- 召(소) + 乙(을) = the sound /솔/
  • 乺 (솔) -- 所(소) + 乙(을) = the sound /솔/
  • 㐘 (쌀) -- 米(미) + 乙(을) = the sound /쌀/; 米(미) = "rice" or "쌀" in pure Korean
  • 乻 (얼) -- 於(어) + 乙(을) = the sound /얼/
  • 㐏 (올) -- 五(오) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/
  • 㐚 (올) -- 吾(오) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/
  • 乯 (올) -- 乎(호) + 乙(을) = the sound /올/; seems it should be "홀," not "올"
  • 㐛 (울) -- 佑(우) + 乙(을) = the sound /울/
  • 㐕 (율) -- 由(유) + 乙(을) = the sound /율/
  • 㐠 (율) -- 乳(유) + 乙(을) = the sound /율/
  • 乽 (잘) -- 者(자) + 乙(을) = the sound /잘/
  • 㐉 (절) -- 丁(정) + 乙(을) = the sound /절/ ; exchange the "ㅇ" for "ㄹ"
  • 乼 (줄) -- 注(주) + 乙(을) = the sound /줄/
  • 乲 (찰) -- 次(차) + 乙(을) = the sound /찰/
  • 㐋 (톨) -- 土(토) + 乙(을) = the sound /톨/
  • 乤 (할) -- 下(하) + 乙(을) = the sound /할/
  • 乥 (홀) -- 乊(호) + 乙(을) = the sound /홀/

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What is "tofu" (豆腐)?

"Tofu" is the Japanese pronunciation of 두부(豆腐), which is also called "bean curd" in English. It is a food product made from coagulated soy bean milk. What is coagulated soy bean milk? Here is a hint: The Chinese characters for 두부 (豆腐) literally mean "bean (豆) rot (腐)."

Thursday, February 02, 2017

How many years did Koreans wish their kings to live?

The answer: 1,000 years

Koreans would wish their kings a long life by raising their hands to the sky and shouting, "천세" (千歲) three times. 천세 means "a thousand (천) years (세)." At ceremonies a high ranking Korean official would lead the cheer by saying the following:
()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()().
[To] the mountain () shout () a thousand () years ();
[To] the mountain (
) shout () a thousand () years ();
Again (
), [to] the mountain () shout () a thousand () thousand () years ().
山 (산) means "mountain," but here it seems to be used as a metaphor for the king or emperor. Notice the third cheer was "a thousand (千) thousand (千) years (歲)" instead of just "a thousand (千) years (歲)." A "thousand thousand years" means "a million years." The response to each prompt was simply "천세," except for the third one, to which the response was "천천세" (千千歲).

Why did Koreans say "a thousand years" instead of "ten thousand years"? [The Korean word for "ten thousand years" is 만세 (萬歲).] The reason was that Korea was a vassal state of China, and the "ten thousand year" cheer was reserved for the emperor of China.

On the 12th day of the 10th month in 1897, King Kojong of Korea was officially crowned "Emperor Kojong." At the ceremony, immediately after crowning the emperor, State Council (의정부) Minister (대신) Sim Sun-taek (심순택 - 沈舜澤) led the following cheer:
()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()().
[To] the mountain () shout () ten thousand () years ();
[To] the mountain (
) shout () ten thousand () years ();
Again (
), [to] the mountain () shout () ten thousand () ten thousand () years (). 
The response: "만세, 만세, 만만세."

Notice that after King Kojong became Emperor Kojong, the chant changed from "one thousand years" to "ten thousand years." Also, notice the 만만세 (萬萬歲), which means "ten thousand (만) ten thousand (만) years (세)." That adds up to "a hundred million years."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What does 下學而上達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 14.35 as follows:
()()()()()(). ()()()()(). ()()()()()().
“I am not bitter toward Heaven, nor do I blame others. I study what is below to comprehend what is above. If there is anyone who could understand me, perhaps it is Heaven?”
The only problem I have with Mr. Slingerland's translation is his translation of 下學而上達 (하학이상달), which he translated as follows: "I study what is below to comprehend what is above." As mentioned in my post HERE, 上達 (상달) means "to report to a superior," not "to comprehend what is above." Therefore, I would like to suggest the following translation:
“[I] do not () resent () Heaven () [and] do not () blame () others (). To inferiors () [I] teach (), and (而) to superiors () [I] advise (). [As for] someone who understands me (知我者), perhaps () it is Heaven (天乎)?”
Notice that I translated 下學而上達 (하학이상달) as follows: "To inferiors (下) [I] teach (學), and (而) to superiors (上) [I] advise (達)."

As I explained in my previous post, when you "report to a superior" (上達- 상달), you convey information or give them advice, both in a respectful manner. The opposite of 上達 is 下達 (하달), which means "to convey information to or to command an inferior," probably without showing much respect. Therefore, both 上達 and 下達 essentially mean "to convey information" or "to teach," but one is done in a polite way and the other is done in a less polite way. The same thing can be said of 下學 (하학) and 上達 (상달).

下學 (하학) means "to teach inferiors," and 上達 (상달) means "to advise or to inform superiors," so both phrases are similar in that they mean "to convey information," but the difference is a matter of etiquette. In other words, you teach inferiors, but you advise superiors. One would not presume "to teach a superior," especially a king, so the more proper expression for teaching a king is "to advise a king." A king has advisers, not teachers. Therefore, 下學而上達 (하학이상달) could be translated more simply as "I teach (下學) and (而) I advise (上達)."

Confucius may have been somewhat frustrated by the fact that people had a hard time understanding his "teachings" and "advice," but he seemed to have been comforted by the thought that, at least, "Heaven" probably understood.