Monday, March 17, 2008

What does the "생" in 생쥐 mean?

According to THIS Korean article, the "mouse's head" (생쥐 머리) in the picture below was found in a bag of 새우깡, which is a popular crunchy snack food here in Korea.

If some of you are like me, you may have thought the word 생쥐 meant "live mouse," based on such words as 생방송 (live broadcast) and 생음악 (live music); however, there is no way the mouse in the above picture could still be alive, so what does 생쥐 mean?

In the past, I was curious about the word 생쥐 because of the Korean expression 물에 빠진 생쥐, which means "a drowned mouse" and is used to describe someone who is soaking wet. I was curious because I had thought 생쥐 meant "live mouse" and could not understand how a drowned mouse could still be alive, so I looked up the word.

생쥐 is an abbreviated form of 새앙쥐, which is a kind of small mouse here in Korea. And the 새앙 in 새앙쥐 is supposed to mean "생강" (ginger), which supposedly implies the mouse is the size of a piece of ginger. I do not know if that is true, but that is what I've read.

By the way, would anyone be interested in a half-eaten bag of 새우깡?