Friday, October 30, 2020

Does 갯사람 mean "dog people"?

 ANSWER: No. It means "people" (사람) who live in a "seaside village" (갯마을) on the "shore of an estuary or inlet" (갯가), where one will often find "tidal mudflats" (갯벌 or 개펄), which are sometimes called 갯뻘 or 개뻘.

Here the word 개 does not mean "dog." It is a pure Korean word that means "inlet," "cove," or "estuary." And 벌 or 펄 means "field," so 갯벌 and 개펄 literally mean "estuary/inlet (개/갯) field (벌/펄)," where you will find 개흙, "the slimy mud or silt on the bank of an inlet or estuary."

By the way, 갯바람 translates as "sea breeze" but literally means "estuary/inlet (갯) wind (바람)."

From Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)


Thursday, October 29, 2020

What does 단사리별 mean?

 ANSWER: sweet syrup?

Do you like "house profits separated" on you pancakes?
The transliteration of the word "syrup" (시럽), using Chinese characters, is 사리별 (舍利別), which literally means "house (舍) profits (利) separated (別)." In other words, the Chinese characters are used for their sounds, not their meanings.
There is also the word 단사리별 (單舍利別), which literally means "single (單) house (舍) profits (利) separated (別)," but I think the 단 (單) is a transliteration of the Korean adjective 단, which is a form of 달다 and means "sweet." So, 단사리별 would mean "sweet syrup," not "simple syrup," as Naver's Korean-English dictionary translates it.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What does the 망정 in 망정이지 mean?

 ANSWER: fortunate or lucky

It is not in my Korean-English dictionary, but the supposedly pure-Korean word 망정 in 망정이지 means "lucky" or "fortunate," but why does it mean "lucky" or "fortunate"? What is the origin of the word? I cannot find anything on its etymology.
The word 망정 does appear in my Korean-Korean dictionary with the following definition:
"[대개, '-니 망정이지' 또는 '-기에 망정이지'의 꼴로 쓰이어] '-니(기에) 다행이지'의 뜻을 나타내는 말."
"[Usually used in the form of '-니 망정이지' or '-기에 망정이지'], the word appears to mean 'to be fortunate/lucky with something' (니/기에 다행이지)."
So, instead of saying 망정이지, one could say 다행이지 (lucky/fortunate).

There is also an example sentence with the definition:
"미리 알았기에 망정이지 큰일날 뻔했다"
"It's lucky we knew in advance; we almost had a big problem."
Though my Korean-Korean dictionary does not say anything about the etymology of the "lucky/fortunate" 망정, it does list another 망정 (望定) just below it that is defined as follows:
"조선때 관원을 천거(薦擧)할 때 후보자로 세 사람을 지명하던 일"
"The act of nominating three candidates for a government post during the time of Joseon."
Could the "lucky/fortunate" pure-Korean 마정 be related to the "nominating three candidates for a government post" Sino-Korean 망정 (望定)?
I wonder because the Chinese characters in the Sino-Korean word 망정 (望定) literally mean "a wish or hope (望) is decided (定)," which would be "lucky" or "fortunate" for the person whose "wish or hope was decided (망정)." It could also be translated as "a hopeful or desired decision."

From "동아 새國語辭典" (1992)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What does 젬병 mean?

 ANSWER: pancakes?

젬병 is Korean slang for "being terrible at" (형편없다) doing something. Here is an example sentence:
내가 과학에는 젬병이다
"I'm terrible at Science."
But 젬병 comes from 전병 (煎餠), which my Korean-English dictionary defines as Korean-style "pancakes." So that means the above Korean sentence can literally translate as follows: "I'm a pancake at Science."
Here is a photo of Korean 전병.



Monday, October 19, 2020

What does 을씨년스럽다 literally mean?

 ANSWER: like 1905

The Korean adjective 을씨년스럽다 can mean "desolate," "shabby," or "wretched," but it literally means "like 1905," which was a depressingly sad year for many Koreans because it was the year Korea gave up its diplomatic sovereignty when it signed the "Eulsa (을사) Treaty" with Japan.
The 을씨년 in 을씨년스럽다 comes from 을사년 (乙巳年), which literally means "the Eulsa (乙巳) year (年)," and since the suffix -스럽다 means "like," 을사년스럽다 literally means "like the 'eulsa' (을사) year (년)."
Koreans used to use a 60-year calendar to refer to dates, based on the sexagenary cycle, and 1905 just happened to be the "Eulsa" (을사) year, which was the 42nd year in that 60-year calendar.
So, in the past, when Koreans were feeling sad or depressed about things happening around them, some of them apparently started using 을사년스럽다 to express their feelings. It was kind of like saying, "Wow! It seems like 1905 all over again." That would suggest that the expression did not exist before 1905. Then over time, 을사년스럽다 changed to 을씨년스럽다.

From "Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary" (1998)


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

What does 사시장철 (四時長철) mean?

 ANSWER:  a year-long season?

The following is the first sentence in the short story "The Last King" (마지막 임금님), by Park Wan-suh (박완서):
-------------
"옛날에 사시장철 춥지도 더웁지도 않게 날씨 좋고 땅은 기름진 고장에 작고 아름다운 나라가 있었습니다."
"A long time ago (옛날에), there was a small beautiful country (작고 아름다운 나라가 있었습니다) in a region where the land was fertile (땅은 기름진 고장에) and the weather was good (날씨 좋고), with a year-long season that was neither cold nor hot (사시장철 춥지도 더웁지도 않게)."
-------------
The above sentence is a good example of one of the big differences between English and Korean.
In English, we tend to name something before describing it, which Koreans sometimes find boring. Koreans, on the other hand, seem to like keeping you in suspense about what is being described until the end of the sentence, Sherlock-Holmes style, which some Americans (including me) sometimes find confusing.
The Chinese character 時 (시) means "time," but it can also mean "season." So, since the character 四 (사) means "four," 사시 (四時) can mean either "4 o'clock" or "the four seasons," but Koreans usually use it to mean "the four seasons" since they say, instead, "네 시" for "4 o'clock."
The Chinese character 長 (장) means "long" or "a long time," so the phrase 사시장 (四時長), literally means "four (四) seasons (時) long (長)," which can translate as "all year long."
So, since 靑 (청) means "green," the word 사시장청 (四時長靑) can translate as "evergreen." And since 春 (춘) means "spring," the word 사시장춘 (四時長春) can translate as "everlasting spring."
But what does 사시장철 (四時長철) mean?
철 is the pure-Korean word for "season," so 사시장철 (四時長철) literally means "year-long (四時長) season (철)."

From "국어시간에 소설읽기 1"

From Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)


Friday, October 09, 2020

What does 방귀벌레 mean?

 ANSWER: stink bug

방귀 is the pure Korean word for "fart," and 벌레 the pure Korean word for "bug," so in Korean "stinkbug" literally means "fart (방귀) bug (벌레)."

But what is the Sino-Korean word for "stink bug"?

ANSWER: 방비충 (放屁蟲), which literally means "fart-releasing (放屁) bug (蟲)

屁 (비) is the Chinese character for "fart," 放 (방) the Chinese character for "release," and 蟲 (충) the Chinese character for "bug," so 방비충, the Sino-Korean word for "stink bug," literally means "releasing (放) farts (屁) bug (蟲)." The Chinese word for "anus" is 비안 (屁眼), which literally means "fart (屁) eye (眼)." And, the Sino-Korean word for "sodomy" is 비역 (屁役), which literally means "fart (屁) work (役)."
Finally, here are two old Chinese proverbs you should live by:
1) 寧不焚香但勿通屁 (영불분향 단물통비)
"If you can't burn incense (寧不焚香), at least don't fart (但勿通屁)."
In other words, "If you can't help, at least don't do any harm."
2) 放屁長還爲糞 (방비장환위분)
"[If] farts (放屁) are frequent (長), [they eventually] return (還) as (爲) poop (糞)."
In other words, "There are often signs of things to come, so don't ignore the signs."

When I played Kid's Inc. softball in elementary school, one of the teams we played against was the "Stink Bugs." Our team's name was the Chinch Bugs."

Saturday, October 03, 2020

How many letters are there in the Chinese alphabet?

 ANSWER: At least 28, except they are called "strokes," not "letters."

The following YouTube videos do a really excellent job of introducing Chinese characters (Hanja, 한자, 漢字) to English-speaking foreigners, but the videos introduce the characters using Chinese pronunciations, not Korean. Yes, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese pronunciations of Chinese characters are mostly different.

But even though the videos below teach the Chinese pronunciations of the Chinese characters, not the Korean, they can still be used by people who want to learn the Korean pronunciations of the characters.

But how can I use the videos to learn the Korean pronunciations? Well, just look up the Korean pronunciations of the characters. But how do I look up the Korean pronunciations? Well, one way is to count the number of strokes in the character and then go to Naver's Chinese Character Dictionary HERE to find the character among the list of characters that have the same numbers of strokes. The Korean word for "stroke" is 획, so if you click on "1획" (one stroke), you will see a list of characters made with just one stroke. If you click on "2획" (two strokes), you will see a list of characters made with two strokes. For example, the Chinese character for "two" is 二, which is made with two strokes. That means 二 would be among the characters in the 2획 (two stroke) list. In that list, 二 is defined as "두 이," with the 두 (two) being the meaning of the character and the 이 being its Korean pronunciation. It's that easy.

Anyway, the following is a list of some of the beginning videos. Some of the characters introduced in the videos are simplified characters, which Koreans do not generally use. So, for those characters, I have also included the characters the simplified characters represent. I will add more to this post later.

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Lesson 1: 一 (일), 二 (이), 三 (삼), 十 (십), 上 (상), 山 (산), 工 (공), 人 (인), 土 (토), 王 (왕), 子 (자). Simplified Characters: 头 = 頭 (두), 门 = 門 (문), 国 = 國 (국), 


Lesson 2:


Lesson 3:


Lesson 4: 


Lesson 5:


Lesson 6:


Lesson 7:


Lesson 8:


Lesson 9:


Lesson 10:


Lesson 11:


Lesson 12:


Lesson 13:


Lesson 14:


Lesson 15:

Friday, September 25, 2020

Are "branches and leaves" (지엽) important?

 ANSWER: Not according to Koreans

The Sino-Korean word 지엽 (枝葉) literally means "branches (枝) [and] leaves (葉)," but Koreans use the word to mean "minor details" or "nonessentials."
So, if you want to refer to something as "a minor problem," "a side issue," or "a mere detail," you can refer to it as a 지엽문제, which literally translates as "a branch-and-leaf problem."

From Dong-A's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

What is the Korean name for a "beech" tree?

ANSWER: 너도밤나무 

 The Korean word for "chestnut tree" is 밤나무, and the Korean word for a "beech" tree is 너도밤나무, which literally translates as "You are also a chestnut tree." Of course, a beech is not a chestnut tree, but the two trees are similar enough that they are sometimes confused, even though beechnuts are much smaller than chestnuts. Anyway, here is my translation of a story that Koreans use to explain the origin of the Korean name for a beech tree.
One day a passing monk sees a child and tell the child's father that the child is fated to be killed by a tiger. The shocked father asks the monk what he can do to save his child. The monk says that the father will have to save 1,000 people to change the child's fate. Realizing that it would be nearly impossible to save 1,000 people, the father asks the monk if there was anything else he can do. The monk tells the father that instead of saving 1,000 people, he can plant 1,000 chestnut trees, and that is what the father does.
Later when the tiger comes for the child, the father tells the tiger not to take his child because he has planted 1,000 chestnut trees. But, unfortunately, one of the trees has died, leaving only 999. 
Just as the tiger is getting ready to pounce on the child, a nearby tree says, "I am also a chestnut tree" (나도 밤나무다). Hearing this, the tiger leaves without killing the child. With tears of emotion flowing down his face, the father says to the tree, "Yes, you are also a chestnut tree" (그래, 너도 밤나무다).
By the way, there is also a small tree or shrub Koreans call 나도밤나무 (I am also a chestnut tree), which is different from a 너도밤나무 (You are also a chestnut tree). And there are other plants that Koreans have named using the 나도 (I also) prefix, which is a prefix that suggests the plants are similar but different than the names of the plants to which the prefix is attached. Below are just a few of them from my Korean-English dictionary:

Dong-a's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)
  
Dong-a's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)

Friday, September 04, 2020

What is the Korean word for "turtle": 거북 or 거북이?

 ANSWER: Both words mean "turtle."

My Korean-English dictionary says that the Korean word for "turtle" is 거북, not "거북이," but in the Korean proverb listed together with the definition of 거북 the word 거북이 is used instead of 거북.
"거북이 잔등의 털을 긁는다." 
"It is very hard to shave an egg."
The above translation of the Korean proverb is not a literal translation. Here is the literal translation:
"A turtle is scratching the hair on its back."
One of the problems with many Korean-English dictionaries is that they seem to be written for Koreans, not for foreigners. If my dictionary, for example, had been written for foreigners, then wouldn't it have also given the literal translation of the Korean proverb?
Anyway, why does my dictionary list 거북 as the Korean word for "turtle" and then use the word 거북이 for "turtle" in the proverb? Or is the 이 in 거북이 just the subject marker?
I have read that 거북 and 거북이 both mean "turtle" but that even though 거북 is more commonly found in dictionaries, 거북이 is more commonly used by Koreans.
I have not read this anywhere, but it seems the word 거북이 may come from the Korean adjective 거북하다, which means "to feel shy" or "awkward." Or maybe the adjective 거북하다 came from the Korean word for "turtle"?
Since turtles hide inside their shells when they are approached, they appear to be "shy," so 거북이 may literally mean "a shy animal" since the suffix 이 can mean "animal," "person," or "thing."
If true, then 거북하다 could translate as "turtlelike."



Saturday, August 29, 2020

What does a placenta (태반 胎盤) look like?

 ANSWER: A skate (홍어 洪魚)?

The following comes from a 1668 entry in the "Annals of King Hyeonjong" (현종실록):

In the Nampyong region of Jeolla Province (全羅道 南平地 전라도 남평지), someone (有人 유인) gave birth to (生 생) a girl (女 여) on whose left buttock (尻尾左邊 고미좌변) was a growth (生贅肉 생췌육) that measured one foot, one-and-a-half inches in length (長布尺一尺一寸五分 장포척일척일촌오분) and was shaped very much like a skate (酷似洪魚狀 혹사홍어상), according to the provincial governor (道臣以聞 도신이문).

Here is a picture of a "skate" (洪魚 홍어): [Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skate_(fish)]


Here is a photo of a "placenta" (태반 胎盤) [Source: https://theconversation.com/no-you-shouldnt-eat-your-placenta-heres-why-86405]

Do they look very much alike? Couldn't the growth that looked very much like a skate on the left buttock of the little girl have been just the mother's placenta? Wouldn't it have just peeled off? Or was it really attached in some way? 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Does 민머리 mean "shaved head"?

ANSWER: No, it means "bald head."

A lot of Koreans think the 민 in 민머리 comes from the word 밀다, which can mean "to shave," but it almost certainly comes from the verb 미다, which means "get bald" or "grow bald."

Dong-a's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)

Dong-a's Prime Korea-English Dictionary (1998)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Why is water blue?

ANSWER: Because the sky is blue.

This is one of my Chinese-character "theme poems," entitled "Blue Skies, Blue Water" (靑天靑水):
"靑天靑水 (청천청수)"
"Blue (靑) Skies (天), Blue (靑) Water (水)"
天水雨水 (천수우수)
Heaven's (天) water (水) [is] rain (雨) water (水),
雨水川水 (우수천수)
Rain (雨) water (水) [becomes] stream (川) water (水),
川水湖水 (천수호수)
Stream (川) water (水) [becomes] lake (湖) water (水),
湖水地水 (호수지수)
Lake (湖) water (水) [becomes] ground (地) water (水),
地水泉水 (지수천수)
Ground (地) water (수) [becomes] spring (泉) water (水),
泉水白水 (천수백수),
[And] Spring (泉) water (水) [is] white (白) water (水),
白水淸水 (백수청수)
White (白) water (水) [is] clear (淸) water (水),
淸水靑水 (청수청수)
[And] clear (淸) water (水) [is] blue (靑) water (水),
靑水天水 (청수천수)
[So] blue (靑) water (수) [is] sky (天) water (水).

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How can I learn Chinese characters?

ANSWER: One way is by playing with them.

One way to learn Chinese characters is by playing with them. And you can start by playing with the 1- and 2-stroke characters of the 1800 taught in Korean primary and secondary schools. Since there are two 1-stroke and fourteen 2-stroke characters among the 1800, that means you would start playing with the first 16 characters.
How can you play with Chinese characters? Here are some suggestions.
1) See how many words and expressions you can make by using just the first 16 characters. An easy one would be to combine the Chinese character for "two" (二 이) and the Chinese character for "ten" (十 십) to form 二十 (이십), which means "twenty." Both characters are 2-stroke characters, which means they are among the first 16 characters of the 1800.
2) See how many of the single characters you can double or triple up to form new characters. For example, the 2-stroke character 刀 (도) means "knife," but if you put three 刀s together (1 over 2), you form the Chinese character 刕 (리), which I've read was the family name of one of the eight great families of Baekje (백제 百濟).
Also, if you put 2 tens (十 십) together, side by side, you form the character 卄 (입), which means "twenty." Though it is not a common character, it is used in some place names. For example, there is a mountain village named 입천리 (卄川里) on the slope of Hyeongje Peak (형제봉) in the City of Gyeongju (경상북도 경주시 양북면 입천리). The village name literally translates as "Twenty (卄) Streams (川) Village (里)." Supposedly, there are 20 streamlets that flow down the slope of the mountain and merge into one stream near the village.
3) See how many different 1- and 2-stroke characters you can combine to form a 3- or 4-stroke character. For example, the 2-stroke characters 又 (우) means "and," "also," or "again." If you put the Chinese character for "ten" (十 십) on top of it, you form the 4-stroke character 支 (지), which means "prop," "support," or "pay." Some words that use the character are 지불 (支拂), which means "pay" or "disburse"; 지배 (支配), which means "manage" or "control"; and 지점 (支店), which means "branch office." Can you form a 6-stroke character by combining three different 2-stroke characters?
So, those are three ways you can play with Chinese characters. While you are playing with them, be sure to learn their pronunciations, their meanings, and how to write them. And don't forget to practice writing them.
And after you are tired of playing with the 1- and 2-stroke characters, move on to the 3-stroke characters, and then the 4-stroke. If you learn your characters this way, you will start to see characters made with characters you have already learned, as would be the case with 支 (지), which again is 十 (십) plus 又 (우).
For those who do not know the stroke order for writing Chinese characters, I have posted below some pages from Bruce K. Grant's book "A Guide to Korean Characters, Reading and Writing Hangul and Hanja" that give nine stroke-order rules to follow when writing Chinese characters. Stroke order is very important, so be sure to follow the rules. The first two rules are write 1) from top to bottom and 2) left to right.
I have also posted from Mr. Grant's book the first 16 characters of the 1800, so that you can start playing with them.
You can share your gameplay in the Comments section of this post if you want, or you can just play by yourself. 

Don't forget to buy Mr. Grant's book, so that you can play with all 1800 characters.

Good luck.

By the way, one place you can go to play with the characters is at Naver's Chinese character dictionary HERE, where you can use your computer mouse to draw the characters next to each other to see if they form any new characters. The place on the page where you draw the characters is in a box labeled 한자필기인식기. For example, if you go to the page and draw in the box the Chinese character for "one" (一 일) on top of the character for "two" (二 이), what character do you think you will form?

UPDATE:

The meaning of the 2-stroke Chinese character 八 (팔) is "eight," but its original meaning was "to divide," which is why it is shaped the way it is. Originally, the shape of the character was two separated downward strokes.

Today, however, the Chinese char
acter for "divide" is 分 (분), which is formed by putting the 2-stroke character for "eight" (八 팔) on top of the 2-stroke character for "knife" (刀 도), suggesting that something is divided by cutting it in half. So, even though 八 (팔) no longer means "divide" when used by itself, the meaning of "divide" is still there when it is used to form certain other characters.

Besides 分 (분), for example, there is also the 4-stroke character 公 (공), which means "fair," "impartial," or "public." It is the same 공 used in the words 공평(公平) and 공정(公正), both of which mean "fair" or "impartial." Notice that the character is formed by putting 八 (팔) on top of the character 厶(모), which is an old character that meant "private." If you "divide up" or "separate" (八) something from being "private," it becomes "public" (公), and if you "divide" (八) it equally, it is "fair" (公).

Playing with your Chinese characters and learning things like this should help you remember your characters.









Saturday, July 11, 2020

Why does 소하다 mean "to eat vegetarian"?

ANSWER: Because the Chinese character 素 (소), which means "white," can also mean "live grass" (생초 生草)
My Korean-English dictionary defines 소하다 (素--) as follows:
abstain from fish and meat; stick to a vegetarian diet
If not for the Chinese character 素 (소), which means "white," one might misinterpret 소하다 as meaning "I'm doing cow," since 소 is also the pure Korean word for "cow" and since cows eat grass. But since the 소 (素) here means "white," 소하다 seems to literally mean "I'm doing white," which made me ask myself, "What the heck?"
So, I had to look up 素 (소) in my Chinese character dictionary to try to figure out what was going on, and I found that 素 (소) can also mean 생초 (生草), which literally means "live grass."
Even though I still do not understand how "white" (素) came to mean "live grass" (生草), I at least now know that 소하다 literally means "to eat live grass."
By the way, "side dishes" (반찬 飯饌) that do not include meat or fish are called 소찬 (素饌), which literally means "live grass (소 素) meal or side dish (찬 饌)."
Dong-a's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)

활용대옥편 (Chinese Characters Dictionary), HW어문연구회 편 (2007)

Dong-a's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998)


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Among Korean food, which one is the antique?

ANSWER: bibimpap (비빔밥)
The Sino-Korean word for "antique" is 골동 (骨董) or 골동품 (骨董品), and the Sino-Korean word for 비빔밥 is 골동반 (骨董飯), which can translate as "antique (骨董) cooked rice (飯)" or "antique food."
A Korean language explanation for the word can be found HERE.

Friday, July 03, 2020

What does a captured bean think?

ANSWER: I can only guess.

Do Koreans also associate the color green with "envy"? Do they associate any color with "envy"?
Anyway, today, for some reason, I suddenly started thinking about beans and wrote the following silly poem in Korean:

"잡힌 콩알"
"The Captured Bean," by Gerry Bevers

콩알이 젓가락에 잡혔다.
A bean was caught up by chopsticks.
잡힌데에 너무 창피해서
It was so embarrassed at being caught
얼굴이 적두인듯 빨갛다.
its face was as red as a red bean.
안 잡힌 친구들을 보고서
Seeing its friends that were not caught,
마음이 녹두인듯 부럽다.
its heart was as envious as a green bean.
앞에 다가오는 입을 보고
Seeing the approaching mouth in front of it,
미래가 흑두인듯 가맣다.
its future seemed as a black as a black bean.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

What does 불현듯이 mean?

ANSWER: suddenly or unexpectedly

Today in my reading I came across the phrase 불현듯이, which can translate as "suddenly," "all of a sudden," "abruptly," or "unexpectedly," and suddenly (불현듯이) became interested in its origin.
According to Naver's dictionary HERE, the 불 in 불현듯이 means "light," and the 현 comes from the verb 혀다, which is an old spelling of 켜다 ("to light" or "to turn on"), so since 듯이 means "like," the phrase 불현듯이 literally translates as "like a light turning on," and when a light is turned on, a room "suddenly" lights up.
In English we have the phrase "a light bulb goes off (in someone's head)," which means someone has "sudden" understanding of something or has a "sudden" great idea.

Friday, June 26, 2020

What is a 길앞잡이?

ANSWER: a tiger beetle

Koreans have some interesting names for bugs, The Korean name for a "tiger beetle," for example, is 길앞잡이, which literally means "path (길) guide (앞잡이)." The name supposedly comes from the way it acts when approached. If you get close to it, it will either fly or run away a short distance and stop, and if you continue to follow it, it will do the same thing again and again, as if it is guiding you along your way.
So, 길 means "path" or "road," and 앞 means "forward," but what does 잡이 mean?
I think 잡이 can be translated as "expert."
If you are a "path guide," but not a bug, you are a 길잡이, without the 앞, and 길잡이 can translate as "path (길) expert (잡이)," which literally translates as "a person (이) who grabs (잡다) the path (길)."
Koreans call right-handed people 오른손잡이, which literally translates as "people (이) who grab (잡다) with their right hands (오른손)," and they call left-handed people 왼손잡이, which literally translates as "people (이) who grab (잡다) with their left hands (왼손), And Koreans call people who are ambidextrous and can grab with both hands 양수(兩手)잡이 or 양손잡이, which literally translates as "people (이) who grab (잡다) with 'both hands (양수)."
So, a right-handed person is a right-hand expert, a left-handed person a left-hand expert, and an ambidextrous person a two-handed expert. In English, "dexterous" means "showing or having skill."
By the way, 칼잡이 (a knife expert) is an unflattering name for "a butcher."