Thursday, September 29, 2005

How much is one 경(京)?

One 경(京) is "10 quadrillion," which is a 1 followed by 16 zeros (i.e. 10,000,000,000,000,000).

According to this article in the Joongang Daily, the Bank of Korea has reported that "the sum of all transactions through domestic financial service companies reached '2.7 gyeong won' or 27 quadrillion won ($26 trillion) last year. (I wish I had a 경 or two in Korean won.)

Notice that the Chinese character for 경(京) is the same character that is used to mean "capital."

What comes after 경(京)? Well, here is a list I typed up a couple of weeks ago:

一(일) = one
十(십) = ten
百(백) = hundred
千(천) = thousand
萬(만) = ten thousand
十萬(십만) = hundred thousand
百萬(백만) = million
千萬(천만) = ten million
億(억) = hundred million
十億(십억) = billion
百億(백억) = ten billion
千億(천억) = hundred billion
兆(조) = trillion
十兆(십조) = ten trillion
百兆(백조) = hundred trillion
千兆(천조) = quadrillion
京(경) = ten quadrillion
十京(십경) = hundred quadrillion
百京(백경) = quintillion
千京(천경) = ten quintillion
垓(해) = hundred quintillion
十垓(십해) = sextillion
百垓(백해) = ten sextillion
千垓(천해) = hundred sextillion
--(자) = septillion
十-(십자) = ten septillion
百-(백자) = hundred septillion
千-(천자) = octillion
穰(양) = ten octillion
十穰(십양) = hundred octillion
百穰(백양) = nonillion
千穰(천양) = ten nonillion
溝(구) = hundred nonillion
十溝(십구) = decillion
百溝(백구) = ten decillion
千溝(천구) = hundred decillion
澗(간) = undecillion
十澗(십간) = ten undecillion
百澗(백간) = hundred undecillion
천澗(천간) = duodecillion
正(정) = ten duodecillion
十正(십정) = hundred duodecilion
百正(백정) = tredecillion
千正(천정) = ten tredecillion
載(재) = hundred tredecilion
十載(십재) = quattuordecillion
百載(백재) = ten quattuordecillion
千載(천재) = hundred quattuordecillion
極(극) = quindecillion
十極(십극) = ten quindecillion
百極(백극) = hundred quindecillion
千極(천극) = sexdecillion

What does 간만(干滿) really mean?

간만(干滿) means the "ebb and flow" of the tide. 간조(干潮) is "low tide," and 만조(滿潮) is "high tide." 간(干) and 만(滿) are supposed to be opposites, but they did not seem like opposites to me, so I looked up their definitions.

간(干) means "shield," but it also has a few other meanings, including "attack," "pursue," "participate," and "dry." Among these meanings, "dry" seems to be the only one that comes closest to being the opposite of 만(滿), which means "full" or "abundant." "Dry" and "full" do not really seem like good opposites to me, but if you are talking about water, which is implied by the "water" radical, 氵(수), in 만(滿), then maybe they could be considered opposites. Nevertheless, I still do not like it.

So, a literal translation of 간조(干潮) and 만조(滿潮) would be "dry tide" and "full tide," respectively.

By the way, if you add "water" to "dry," what do you get? Well, the Chinese think you get "sweat," 汗(한). The logic? You charge in and penetrate the skin with your "shield" (干) and "water"(氵) comes out. Inscrutable? Yes, I think so, too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What exactly was "adultery" in old China?

Considering that 男(남) means "man" and 女(여) means "woman," which of the following Chinese characters would you choose to mean "rape" or "adultery"?
  1. 嬲(뇨)
  2. 姦(간)

Me, too, but, surprisingly the Chinese chose Number 2. The first character means "flirting with or teasing a woman."

Monday, September 26, 2005

肛(항)? Where is the hole in "asshole"?

肛(항) is the Chinese character for "anus," as in 肛門(항문). The character is composed of 月(육), which means "meat," and 工(공), which means "artisan" or "craftsman." This combination struck me as strange, so I decided to do a little research.

I knew that 月(육) is often used in characters that refer to parts of the body, but I could not see the relationship between a "craftsman" and an "anus." Yes, I once knew a carpenter who was an "asshole," but I do not think the Chinese would generalize like that.

The Chinese character 孔(공) means "hole," so why was it not used instead of 工(공)? I felt that even 空(공), which means "empty," would have been more appropriate since one of its other meanings is also "hole." Anyway, I looked up the character 工(공) and was surprised to learn that it used to refer to a tool that bore "holes" in stoneware. Moreover, the explanation I read said that since 工(공) sounds the same as 孔(공) and 空(공), it came to also mean "hole." Well, that explains it.

This character will be easy for me to remember because all I have to do is associate it with that carpenter I used to know.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How long have the Chinese played baseball?

The Chinese character 壘(루) means "fort" or "camp." Notice that it is composed of three fields arranged on top of a mound of "earth." The Chinese character for "field" is 田(전), and the character for "earth" or "land" is 土(토).

Now look carefully at the character:

Doesn't it look a lot like a baseball diamond? The field on top would be second base; the one to the right, first base; the one to the left, third base; and the mound of "earth" at the bottom would be home plate.

Koreans refer to "first base" as 일루(一壘), "second base" as 이루(二壘), "third base" as 삼루(三壘), and "home plate" as 본루(本壘).

Is this just coincidence? Or were the Chinese playing baseball a thousand years before Columbus discovered America? I wonder.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What are the scariest Chinese characters?

One scary Chinese character is 妬(투), which means "intense jealousy." It is composed of the characters 女(여), which means "woman," and 石(석), which means "rock." When I first saw this character, I wondered why the Chinese would use a woman with a rock to represent "intense jealousy," then it hit me. When I think of what a jealous Chinese woman might do with a rock, I cringe.

These days, 妬(투) seems somewhat anachronistic. If the Chinese were to update the character, I think they might replace 石(석) with 刀(도), which, of course, means "knife."

Are Koreans also confused by 호박?

Last night I stopped by the local Paris Baguette to pick up my usual loaf of barley bread (보리빵), but they had run out. The manager suggested I try the 호박검은깨 bread, instead. According to the label on the package, the bread's ingredients included 2 percent pumpkin powder (호박분말) and 2 percent black sesame (흑깨). I bought the bread.

Today, while preparing to make a sandwich with my black sesame pumpkin bread, I noticed on the package the Chinese character 珀(박), which I previously talked about here. As some may remember, 珀(박) means 호박, but it is the "amber" 호박, not the "pumpkin" 호박. Therefore, the "珀"on my bread package seems to imply that the bread is made from "amber powder," not "pumpkin powder," which hopefully is not the case. It seems much more likely that the people at Paris Baguette are also confused by the Chinese character, 珀(박).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What does the 찌 in 물찌똥 mean?

물찌똥 has two meanings. One is "loose stool," and the other is "splashing waterdrops." If you were to drop the 찌 in 물찌똥, you would get 물똥, which still means "splashing water," but no longer means "loose stool." That seems to imply that 찌 has a kind of "shitty" meaning in it, but I cannot find anything in the dictionary.

There is the word 꼴찌, which means "the last" or "the bottom," but I do not see any relationship with the 찌 in 물찌똥, unless you want to focus on the word, "bottom." There is also the word 찌개, which means "pot stew," but I cringe at the thought that that might somehow be related. Then there is the word 찌꺼기, which is kind of interesting since it means "dregs," "remains," "leftovers," or "waste," but even with 찌꺼기, I think I am still grasping for straws. Therefore, I guess I just have to give up on my search for the meaning of 찌.

Just remember that if you want to talk about "a water fight," you should use 물똥싸움, not 물찌똥싸움. However, I do think I remember seeing a 물찌똥싸움 is the movie, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

伍(오)? Why five people?

The Chinese character, 伍(오), means "five people." It is composed of 亻(인) and 五(오). 亻(인) means "person," and 五(오) means "five," so this character is easy to remember. However, why did the Chinese create a special character to mean "five people," as opposed to some other number of people? I was curious, so I looked it up.

The smallest unit in the armies of Old China was five men, and it seems that when the Chinese would march, they would usually march in ranks of five, which was called an 伍(오). Five ranks would be twenty-five men, which the Chinese called a 行(항). The Korean word for "rank and file" is 항오(行伍).

By the way, the character 行 is pronounced as 행, not 항, when it is used to mean "to walk" or "to do."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Can one get drunk on "chicken water"?

The Chinese character for alcohol is 酒(주), which is a combination of 氵(수) and 酉(유). The character 氵(수) means "water," and the character 酉(유) means "chicken." That implies that the Chinese considered alcohol to be "chicken water," which is not something I would want to get drunk on. Anyway, I was curious as to why "chicken water" would be used to refer to alcohol, so I did a little research.

I found that 酉(유) was originally drawn to represent a wine barrel, which my imagination can see. The top part of the character, for example, looks kind of like a cork or some kind of lid. A wine barrel with liquid in it for "alcohol"? I can accept that. However, that now brings up another question.

How does one get "chicken" from a "wine barrel"?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why 膾(회) and not 鱠(회)?

The Chinese character for "sliced raw meat" is 膾(회), which is made up of the characters 月(육) and 會(회). 月(육) means "meat," and 會(회) means "meeting." The Chinese character for "meat" is 肉(육), but it is usually written as 月 when combined with other characters. Notice that the "meat," 月(육), and the "moon," 月(월), look the same, which can be confusing. However, when you see the 月 character, you can usually assume it means "meat," since the "meat" 月 is combined with other Chinese characters about 9 times more often than the "moon" 月. At any rate, the character for "sliced raw meat" is "a meeting of meat," not "a meeting under the moon."

膾(회) refers to both "sliced raw beef" and "sliced raw fish." If you want to distinguish between the two, you must say 肉膾(육회) for "sliced raw beef" and 生鮮膾(생선회) for "sliced raw fish."

My question is why isn't 鱠(회) used for "sliced raw fish" instead of 膾(회)? 鱠(회) is made up of the character 魚(어), which means fish. Wouldn't that make it a more appropriate composite character for "sliced raw fish"?

When one wants to refer to "sliced raw meat and fish" in general way, than 膾 is fine, but when one wants to distinguish between the two, then one should distinguish between the characters. Use 膾 in 肉膾(육회), but 鱠 should be used in 生鮮膾(생선회), not 膾.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Why does 珀(박) mean "호박"?

These days I have been studying Chinese characters, and today I came across the character 珀(박), which means "호박." The character is a combination of 白(백) and 玉(옥). 白 means "white" and 玉 means "gem" or "precious stone." The combination implies "white gem." That confused me because I assumed "호박" meant "pumpkin," which is not "white" and certainly not a "gem." Therefore, I went to the dictionary to see if I could find an explanation.

I found that there are two meanings for 호박-- one is "pumpkin," and the other is "amber." It turns out that the "pumpkin" 호박 is a pure Korean word, which means it is not made from Chinese characters, but the "amber" 호박(琥珀) is a Sino-Korean word, which means it is made from Chinese characters. When Koreans say, 호박색," they are referring to the color of "amber," not to the color of a "pumpkin."

So today I learned that the Korean word for "amber" is 호박, but there is still something I do not understand. Amber is a brownish yellow color, but the character, 珀, implies that it is "white." What gives?