Sunday, September 30, 2018

What does 네가지 mean?

Answer: ill-mannered or ill-bred

네가지 is slang for 싸가지, which is also slang. The 싸 is 싸가지 sounds similar enough to the Sino-Korean word for four (사) that it is replaced with the pure Korean word for four (네) to slyly hide its negative meaning, which is ill-mannered or ill-bred. Actually, 싸가지 comes from 싹수, which means good omen or promising, but Koreans almost always say 싸가지 없다, not 싸가지 있다, unless they are joking, so when they just say 싸가지, they mean 싸가지 없다,  which is similar in meaning to 버릇없다 or 인정머리 없다.

The word 싹수 can be reduced to 싹, so 싹 can also mean good omen or promising, but 싹 is also the pure Korean word for sprout, so 싹 있다 can also mean, "There are sprouts," something a Korean farmer might say when he sees his crops sprouting in his field, which would be a promising sign or good omen, and this may be the origin of 싹수 있다. 

The pure Korean suffix -아지 can be attached to certain nouns to degrade or belittle those nouns, so if Korean farmers see their fields sprouting, they would likely be happy and might say, 싹 있다, "There are sprouts," but if they do not see their fields sprouting, they would likely be unhappy and might belittle their unsprouted sprouts by saying, "싹아지 없다," which is pronounced as /싸가지 없다/ and translated as "There are no damn sprouts."

Friday, September 28, 2018

What does 딸바보 mean?

ANSWER: a father who dotes on his daughter

딸바보 literally means "daughter's (딸) fool (바보)." It is a cute slang expression used to describe a father who loves his daughter so much that he often indulges her.

For a good list of Korean internet slang expressions, go HERE.

Here are a few more from the list. I may add more later.

  • 검은 머리 외국인 "a black-haired foreigner": It refers to foreign nationals with Korean ancestry, such as Korean-Americans. For many Koreans, the stereotypical foreigner has blue eyes and blond hair, not the brown eyes and black hair that most Koreans have.
     
  • 귀요미 "cute; cute person": 귀엽다 is an adjective that means cute or pretty, and 귀염 is a noun form of that adjective. When the pure Korean suffix 이--which can mean person, animal, or thing--is added to 귀염, it becomes 귀염이, which means 귀여운 사람 and can be translated as a cute person or a cutie, though Koreans would normally say 귀염둥이. When 귀염이 is pronounced, it is pronounced as /귀여미/, but for this slang term, the 여 is changed to the stronger 요 sound for greater emphasis, resulting in 귀요미. It can also be made into an adjective by adding -하다 to form 귀요미하다. Therefore, instead of using 귀여운 삼람 to refer to a cute person, you can also use either 귀요미 or 귀요미한 사람, but remember that the latter two are considered slang.
     
  • 꿀잼 "sweet fun": 꿀 means honey or sweet, but here "sweet" is being used in a similar way that many Americans use "sweet" to mean very good or extremely good. 잼 is a reduced form of the pure Korean word 재미,which means fun or interesting, so 꿀쨈 literally means "extremely good (꿀) fun (잼)" or extremely interesting, which is usually expressed in Korean as 아주 재미있다, or by younger Koreans as 완전 재미있다. Younger Koreans seem to use 완전 as an adverb (완전히) meaning totally, similar to how some Americans use "totally" to mean very or extremely. By the way, 꿀잼 should be pronounced as /꿀쨈/ because of the influence of the preceding ㄹ.
     
  • 네가지 "ill-mannered": 네가지 means 싸가지, which is also slang. The 싸 is 싸가지 sounds similar enough to the Sino-Korean word for four (사) that it is replaced with the pure Korean word for four (네) to slyly hide its negative meaning, which is ill-mannered or ill-bred. Actually, 싸가지 comes from 싹수, which means good omen or promising, but Koreans almost always say 싸가지 없다, not 싸가지 있다, unless they are joking, so when they just say 싸가지, they mean 싸가지 없다,  which is similar in meaning to 버릇없다 or 인정머리 없다.

    The word 싹수 can be reduced to 싹, so 싹 can also mean good omen or promising, but 싹 is also the pure Korean word for sprout, so 싹 있다 can also mean, "There are sprouts," something a Korean farmer might say when he sees his crops sprouting in his field, which would be a promising sign or good omen, and this may be the origin of 싹수 있다.

    The pure Korean suffix -아지 can be attached to certain nouns to degrade or belittle those nouns, so if Korean farmers see their fields sprouting, they would likely be happy and say, 싹 있다, "There are sprouts," but if they do not see their fields sprouting, they would likely be unhappy and might belittle their unsprouted sprouts by saying, "싹아지 없다," which is pronounced as /싸가지 없다/ and translated as "There are no damn sprouts."
     
  • 노잼 "boring": 노잼 is a combination of the sound of the English word "no" and a reduced form of the Korean word "재미," which means fun or interesting, so 노잼 literally means "no (노) fun (잼)" or not interesting. Koreans would normally say, 재미 없다.
     
  • 몸짱 "the best body": 몸 means body, and 짱 supposedly comes from the Chinese character 將 (장), which means general or leader. Supposedly, 장 was changed to 짱 just to give it more force or emphasis. Therefore, 몸짱 would literally translate as "body (몸) leader (짱)."

    Personally, I wonder if 짱 may have come from 가장, which means the most, so 몸짱 in Korean would mean 몸이 가장, just the first part of the intended phrase. Listeners would be expected to complete the phrase in their minds, which would be 몸이 가장 예쁜 여자, "a woman with the most beautiful body." And maybe the 장 in 가장 changed to 짱 to compensate for dropping the 가.

    Anyway, regardless of its origin, the suffix -짱 means something like the best or the leader. 짱 can also be attached to certain other words, including 싸움짱 or 쌈짱 (the best fighter), 힘짱 (the strongest person), or 공부짱 (the best studier / the best student).
     
  • 반품남 / 반품녀 "divorced man / divorced woman": 반품 means returned merchandise, so 반품남 literally means a man who is returned merchandize, which means his wife no longer wanted him and got a divorce. 반품녀 literally means a woman who is returned merchandise, which is slang for a divorced woman.
     
  • 양이집사 / 양집사 "a cat butler": These two slang words are shortened versions of 고양이 집사, which literally means "cat (고양이) butler (집사)." It refers to a person with a pet cat that often seems more like the master of the house than its owner, who seems more like the "cat's butler."
     
  • 품절남 / 품절녀 "married man / married woman": 품절 means sold-out or out-of-stock, such as a product in a store, so 품절남 literally means "an out-of-stock (품절) man (남)," which refers to a man who is already married and, therefore, unavailable for a romantic relationship. 품절녀 literally means "an out-of-stock (품절) woman (녀)," which is slang for a married woman.
     
  • 핵꿀팁 "very good tip": 핵 means nuclear, 꿀 means honey, and 팁 comes from the English word "tip," which means a piece of advice. Honey is sweet and very good, so 꿀팁 can be translated as a sweet tip or a very good tip. Koreans seem to use 꿀 the same way many Americans use "sweet" to mean very good or extremely good. A nuclear explosion is an extreme event, so 핵 is being used here as an adverb meaning extremely or very. Therefore, 핵꿀팁 can translate as "extremely (핵) good (꿀) tip (팁). On your Facebook page, for example, if you wanted to list in Korean ten great tips for doing something, you could title the list as "핵꿀팁 10개."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Where's your mama (마마)?

When servants and officials would address the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty, they would often address them by attaching the word 마마 (媽媽) to the name of the building on the palace grounds where the different members of the royal family resided. The Chinese character 媽 (마) means mother, so 마마 literally means mother, mother. The Chinese character 殿 (전) means house, building, or palace, and the Chinese character 宮 (궁) also means palace

The king resided in the "Big (대 大) House or Palace (전 殿)," so he was addressed as "대전마마" (大殿媽媽) by the servants in the palace. The queen apparently resided in a building referred to as 중전 (中殿), which literally means "Middle (中) Palace (전 殿)" or "Medium-sized Palace," so servants addressed her as 중전마마 (中殿媽媽) or 내전마마 (內殿媽媽). 내전 (內殿) literally means "Inner (內) Palace (殿)."

The crown prince, usually the eldest son of a king and queen, apparently lived in a building called the "East (동 東) Palace (궁 宮)," so servants addressed him as 동궁마마 (東宮媽媽) or simply 동마마 (東媽媽) . If the crown prince was married, the building or palace his wife lived in was called 빈궁 (嬪宮, which literally means "Wife's (嬪) Palace (宮)," so servants addressed her as 빈궁마마 (嬪宮媽媽).

Finally, the widowed mother of a king, also called the queen mother, lived in a building called 자전 (慈殿), which literally means "The Love (慈) Palace (殿)," so servants addressed her as either 자전마마 (慈殿媽媽) or 대비마마 (大妃媽媽). The word 대비 (大妃) literally means "the big (大) queen (妃)."

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Is 잘 부탁합니다 a ridiculous translation of a Japanese expression?

ANSWER: Yes, according to author and former Korean language teacher Mr. Lee Su-yeol (이수열), who has also contributed regularly to Korean newspapers.

I have received pushback from some Koreans and others about an article I posted in 2009 entitled "Do you think 잘 부탁합니다 is silly, too?," so I decided to translate the Korean newspaper article from which I got my information. Actually, it is a similar but different article since the original article I had used has apparently been deleted. This article appeared in the October 10, 2002 edition of the online version of the Korean newspaper 한겨레 and was written by Mr. Lee Su-yeol (이수열), who is an author, regular newspaper contributor, and a former teacher, who taught the Korean language for 47 years to Korean elementary, middle school, and high school students. You can find the article HERE, but I have copied the relevant portion of the article below with my translation. I have also included a Chosun Ilbo (조선일보) Media video report on Mr. Lee, who is now 90 years old:
-------------
잘 부탁합니다 is a ridiculous translation of the Japanese expression “よろ()しくねが()います,” which the Japanese use to request someone to deal appropriately with a certain issue. 
よろ()しく” is an adverb meaning appropriately (적당히/적절히). The underlying intention of this part of the expression is to limit/restrict the actions of the person receiving the request. It has been translated as “,” so when someone says “ 부탁한다,” the speaker ends up ridiculously praising himself with “I’m good at asking for favors.”
Therefore, correct it by using “부디 돌보아 주십시오” ("Please take good care of me") or “아무쪼록 이끌어 주십시오” ("As much as you can, please guide me well"). If you do not do this, then it will sound like a request from a corrupt businessperson seeking unfair advantages from authorities at such places as administrative offices or the National Assembly, which would be extremely disgusting.   

“잘 부탁합니다”는 일본사람들이 무슨 일을 적절하게 처리해 주기를 당부하는 뜻으로 쓰는 ‘よろ()しくねが()います’를 엉터리로 옮긴 것이다.
‘よろ()しく’는 ‘적당히, 적절히’를 뜻하는 어찌씨로, 속뜻이 자신의 당부를 받은 사람의 행동을 한정하는 월조각인데, 그것을 ‘잘’로 옮겨서 ‘잘 부탁한다’고 하면, 말하는 사람 자신이 부탁을 잘한다는 칭찬이 되어서 우스꽝스럽다.
그러므로 ‘부디 돌보아 주십시오, 아무쪼록 이끌어 주십시오’라고 고쳐 써야 한다. 그렇게 하지 않으면 부당한 이득을 노리는 악덕 기업인이 이권에 관계 있는 업무를 맡은 행정부서나 국회 등에서 청탁, 로비활동을 때나 씀직해서 아주 메스껍다.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What does 매화 mean?

Answer: either the blossom of a Japanese apricot tree or a royal dump

매화 (梅花) literally means "Japanese apricot tree (梅) flower (花)," but, apparently for those who do not know that the Chinese character 花 (화) already means flower, Koreans usually add the pure Korean word for flower (꽃) to it and say 매화꽃 for clarification.

Interestingly, however, during the Joseon Dynasty, the word 매화 was also used in the royal palace to mean poop, apparently because the pure Korean word for poop (똥) was not regal enough.

So, if you feel like you must announce the reason for your going to the bathroom, you could try softening the language by using the royal expression:
매화를 보러 간다.
"I'm going to go see the Japanese apricot blossoms."

What's the difference between 감옥 and 교도소?

Both 감옥 (監獄) and 교도소 (矯導所) can be translated as prison, but 교도소 sounds better and is considered a euphemism for prison and, therefore, would be better translated as correctional institution, which is the English euphemism for prison. The Chinese characters that make up 교도소 (矯導所) literally translate as "correction (矯) and guidance (導) place (所)."

형무소 (刑務所) is a slightly outdated term for prison and literally translates as "punishment (刑) affairs (務) place (所),"which does not sound as pleasant as "correction and guidance place."

So, if you want to sound mean, use 감옥; if you want to sound compassionate, use 교도소.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

사람은 늙다 or 사람은 늙는다?

Answer: 사람은 늙는다.

늙다 is a verb that means grow old, not an adjective that means be old, so you cannot use 사람 늙다 to say, "He is old"; you have to use the past tense form of the verb and say, 사람 늙었다, which literally translates as, "He has grown old." 사람 늙는다 is the present tense form of the verb and translates as, "He is growing old."

젊다, on the other hand, is an adjective that means be young, so since it is an adjective, you write 사람은 젊다, not 사람은 젊었다, to mean, "He is young."

늙은 사람 (past tense verb form): a man who has grown old

젊은 사람 (present tense adjective form): a young man

Saturday, September 22, 2018

What are "land clothes" (지의 地衣)?

Answer: lichen

An online Google definition of lichen is as follows:
a simple slow-growing plant that typically forms a crust-like, leaf-like, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees
The Sino-Korean word for lichen is 지의 (地衣), which literally translates as "land (地) clothes (衣)." It can also be referred to as 지의류 (地衣類), which can be translated as "a kind of lichen."

The Korean name makes sense since, according to Wikipedia, an estimated 6 percent of the earth's land surface is covered with lichen, which grows even in the artic. And I would guess that more than 6 percent of Korea's land surface is dressed in "land clothes."

By the way, the pure Korean word for lichen or moss is 이끼, and the pure Korean word for rock moss is 돌옷, which literally translates as "rock (돌) clothes (옷)."


What is a 번데기?

A 번데기 is the pupa-stage larva (애벌레) of


a silkworm (누에) in the process of metamorphosis to become


a silkmoth (누에나망).


 Many Koreans, and some naïve non-Koreans, eat 번데기, which is often collected after


the cocoon (고치) of the silkworm (누에)


is unwound and twisted into thicker silk thread (비단실).


The silk thread is then weaved into silk cloth (비단).


In the 1960s and 70s, Korea's 번데기 came mainly from Korea's big textile mills, but these days most of it is imported from China. I think Koreans started eating 번데기 because they were hungry, but now I think many eat it just to gross out friends and foreigners.

Friday, September 21, 2018

What's the Korean name for the "knotweed" plant?

Answer: 며느리밑씻개 (daughter-in-law toilet paper)

며느리 means "daughter-in-law," and 밑씻개 literally means "a bottom (밑) wipe (씻개)," which these days means toilet paper.

In Korea, there are many old stories about mothers-in-law being cruel to their daughters-in-law, and a mother-in-law forcing a daughter-in-law to wipe her bottom with a thorny plant would be especially cruel, so the name of this plant suggests that it is not a good one to wipe one's bottom with.


LINK

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Does 파랗다 mean "blue" or "green"?

Answer: blue

Donga's Prime Korean-English Dictionary (1998) defines 파랗다 as both "blue" and "green," and it also defines 푸르다 as both "blue" and "green." These definitions, needless to say, suggest that there is some confusion between the meanings of 파랗다 and 푸르다 among Koreans.

A 2006 article HERE, on Korea's 한겨례 newspaper Web site, says that 파랗다 should be defined as "sky blue," and 푸르다 as "grass green." It also mentions that the green light on Korean traffic lights used to be referred to as "파란 신호등" but is now referred to as "푸른 신호등."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Right or Left?

In my Korean-Korean dictionary, the first definition for 오른쪽 (right) is as follows:
동쪽을 향하였을 때, 남쪽에 해당하는 방향
the direction corresponding to south when facing east 
The problem with the above definition is that it assumes a person already knows which way is east. If a person does not know right from left, can we really assume he or she would know east from west?

The first definition for 남쪽 (south) in my Korean-Korean dictionary is as follows:
해돋는 쪽을 향하여 오른쪽이 되는 방향
the direction that becomes the right side when facing the direction of the rising sun
 The problem with the definition for south is that it assumes a person already knows right from left.

So what is my point? My point is that the people who wrote the definitions seem to have written them for children who cannot read. Children who can read the definitions would most likely already know right from left and north from south and not need such explanations.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Which is wider, 내 or 시내?

Answer: A 내 is wider than a 시내.

내 is the pure Korean word for stream, which is wider than a 시내, the pure Korean word for brook or small stream. The 시 in 시내 is most likely a reduction of the pure Korean word 실, which means thread, yarn, or string. That would mean 시내 would literally translate as thread-like stream.

The Sino-Korean word for stream or brook is 계천 (溪川), which is a combination of the characters 溪 (계), which means brook (시내), and 川 (천), which means stream (내). In downtown Seoul, for example, there is a stream named Cheonggyecheon (청계천 淸溪川 ), which literally means clear (淸) stream (溪川).

The characters 溪 (계) and 川 (천) are not normally used by themselves but rather as part of other words, such as in the names of streams, or in such words as 개천 (開川), which literally means open (開) stream (川) but generally refers to man-made ditches or open sewers. The pure Korean word for ditch or open sewer is 도랑. Also, a very narrow ditch or stream is called 실개천 (실開川), which literally means thread-like (실) ditch (開川). By the way, notice that 계천 (溪川) and 개천 (開川) sound similar, so just remember that the first one means stream and the second one is more of a ditch.

Finally, 개울 is another pure Korean word that can translate as either brook (시내) or ditch (도랑). You would have to consider the context of the sentence or writing to decide which translation to use. 실개울 means small stream or ditch. Again, 실 is the pure Korean word for thread, yarn, or string.

연기, 연기, 연기?

Same sound, different meanings
무대 위에서 연기(煙氣)가 나서 그는 연기(演技)를 연기(延期)할 수 밖에 없었다.
Because smoke (煙氣) appeared on the stage, he had no choice but to postpone (延期) the performance (演技).

장수, 장수, 장수?

Same sound, different meanings
전장에서 명성을 날린 장수(將帥)가 물건을 파는 장수에게 장수(長壽)하라고 말했다.
The general (將帥), who had won fame on the battlefield, wished the merchant (장수) selling his wares a long life (長壽).

시장, 시장, 시장?

Same sound, different meanings
그 시장(市長)은 시장(市場)에만 가면 시장하여 견딜 수가 없었다.
When that mayor (市長) would go just to the market (市場), he would get so hungry (시장) he couldn't resist.

이상, 이상, 이상?

Same sound, different meanings
90점 이상(以上)을 맞는 것이 좀 이상(異常)하지만 그것이 나의 이상(理想)이다.
Scoring 90 or above (以上) is a little uncommon (異常), but that is my goal (理想).

Sunday, September 09, 2018

What does 역지사지 mean?

On the home page of the Chinese Character section of Korean's online Naver Dictionary, a great resource by the way, there is a box labeled "오늘의 고사성어," which can be translated as "Today's Old [Chinese] Saying." Well, here is the old saying in that box today:
exchange (易) places [with someone] (地) [and] consider (思) his/her/theirs (之) 
 Even though 地 (지) is the Chinese character for land or place, it is also part of the word 처지 (處地), which means situation or circumstances, so the above expression could also be translated and "exchange circumstances and consider his/hers/theirs."

Though there is no example sentence on the Naver page, I have a book entitled "고사성어 대백과" that gives the following example sentence:
요즘 같은 개인주의 사회일수록 역지사지의 정신이 더욱 필요하다.
The more we see this kind of selfishness in society these days, the more we need a mindset that considers things from other people's perspective

What does 카더라 mean?

Answer: 카더라 is the Gyeongsang dialectal pronunciation of "하더라," as in the expression "~라고 하더라," which can be translated as "I've heard it said that." It refers to rumors or speculation from vague, unknown, or unreliable sources. Such rumors or speculation is often attributed to sources like "An industry source [has said] (업계 관계자)," "Someone I know [said] (아는 사람)," "Some magazine [wrote that] (어느 잡지), "An article I once read [said] (언젠가 본 기사), or "I once saw a broadcast [that] (예전에 본 방송). Also, 카더라 통신 (카더라 communications) refers to rumor or speculation that is falsely attributed to reliable sources, such as the Associated Press or Reuters, to spread the particular rumor or speculation. LINK

I came across the word 카더라 when I was reading about the etymology of 불여우, which does not mean fire fox but rather red fox, as explained HERE. Anyway, the word 카더라 appeared in the following sentence of the article:
대충 오십 년 가까이 살면 불여우가 되고 백 살을 넘기면 백여우가 되고 거기서 더 살면 구미호가 된다는 설명도 있었느나 이는 최근 구미호 붐으로 파생되 카더라로 보인다.
There were stories that if it lived for approximately fifty years, it would become a red fox; if it lived for more than 100 years, it would become a white fox; and if it lived longer than that, it would become a 9-tailed fox (구미호), but it seems these are unreliably sourced rumors that have sprung up because of the recent booming interest in 9-tailed foxes.

What does 불여우 mean?

In the past, many Koreans had their given names, their adult names, and their pen names. For superstitious reasons, Koreans did not like using their given names outside their homes. In fact, in the past, Koreans were so secretive about their names that some Korean children did not even know the names of their mothers because people would usually refer to their mothers as "the mother of so-and-so," using the child's name in place of the "so-and-so." After Koreans reached adulthood, they were given adult names that their friends could use to refer to them without any problems, allowing them to avoid using their given names in public. Later, after Koreans had established themselves in society, many created pen names for themselves that described their character or something about them in some way. Many Koreans preferred pen names that were simple and humble. A grandiose or boastful pen name was considered boorish and unrefined. The following is my translation of a little story about a man who was embarrassed by his pen name. It comes from a book a have that is entitled, "하나를 배우면 열을 아는 이야기 어휘력 교실." The story is an example of Korean wordplay. "The Fox and the Red Fox (여우과 불여우)" In the past, men used adult names ( ) and pen names ( ) besides their original names (본 이름). After they got married, they were referred to by their adult names instead of their original names, and anyone could refer to them by their pen names. Once there was a man whose pen name was Yeo-u (여우 如愚), a good, humble name because its Chinese character meaning was dummy-like; but its pronunciation was the same as the animal name fox, so his friends were always teasing him about [being as sly as a fox], and he was always asking them not to call him by his pen name. One of the friends he asked answered him like this: “I’ll do as you wish. If the wish of a dead man can be granted, why not that of a living man? Apparently you do not care for your pen name, so if I do not call you by that, problem solved, right? Instead, you buy me a drink.” Another friend beside them chimed in, “Fine, then, but to suddenly not use it makes me sad, so I also will need to receive a drink before I can agree to it. And we will need to create a new pen name for you, one that will put our minds at ease. The friend with the pen name Yeo-u said that that was the best news he had ever heard, and they all went off together to the drinking house, ordered many drinks and snacks, and had a big feast. Soon the man with the pen name Yeo-u was drunk on alcohol, and so were both of his friends. The man with the pen name Yeo-u told them about all the unspeakable situations he had had to endure because of his pen name. His friends nodded their heads in sympathy as they listened to him. At the end of the party, as they were all standing to leave, one friend stepped forward and said, “So, from this moment forward, this friend of ours is not Yeo-u. Do you all understand?” The other friend answered like this: “Then, since his pen name is now not Yeo-u, we will add the character that means “not” ( ) to his pen name and call him ‘불여우.’ That will be good, so from now on we will call him “Red Fox.”

Friday, September 07, 2018

What's the difference between 남자에는 & 남자에게는?

In his book 국어의 풍경들 (Views of the Korean Language), Ko Jong-seok (고종석) introduces the following Korean riddle:
남자에게는 있고 여자에게는 없는 것, 그러나 엄마에게는 있고 아빠에게는 없는 것?
Before clicking on the answer HERE, try to figure out the riddle on your own.

Did you figure it out? If not, why not? Would it have made any difference if 에는 had been used in the riddle instead of 에게는?

In the article in his book, Mr. Ko explains that the riddle is not really fair since 에게는 was used instead 에는. The grammar rule is that 에게 is used with animals or people, and 에 is used with plants, places, things, ideas or time, so since the riddle was treating 남자, 여자, 엄마, and 아빠 as words (things) rather than as people, 에는 should have been used with them instead of 에게는. The reason 에는 was not used is that it would have been too big of a clue for observant Koreans.

Here is one more riddle:
하늘과 땅 사이에는 뭐가 있을까?
The answer is HERE. I bet this one is easier.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Which of these words is considered non-standard: 늘, 항상, 늘상?

Answer: 늘상

늘 is the pure Korean word for always, and 항상 (恒常) is the Sino-Korean word for always, and both appear in my dictionaries, but 늘상 does not appear in my dictionaries because it is considered a non-standard word.

늘상 is a combination of the pure Korean word 늘 (always) and the Chinese character 常 (상), which means always and is one of the characters in 항상 (恒常), the Sino-Korean word for always. In other words, 늘상 is redundant because it literally means always, always. Actually, 항상 (恒常) is also redundant because it also literally translates as always (恒), always (常), but the redundancy in 항상 (恒常) is necessary because if you were to say either 항 or 상 by itself in a sentence, Koreans would most likely not understand you. However, if you were to say 늘 in a sentence, Koreans would understand you, so adding 상 (常) to it is unnecessary. In fact, 늘 is the only one-syllable word in my dictionaries with the sound /늘/, so there is almost no way Koreans would confuse it with another word.

The reason I am writing about this is that I just saw 늘상 used in a book written by Ko Jong-seok (고종석), who is a former reporter, novelist, and linguist. The title of the book is 국어의 풍경들 (Views of the Korean Language), a very interesting book that talks about different aspects of the Korean language, including the redundancy of many Korean words and expressions. I just thought it was ironic that a Korean linguist like Mr. Ko Jong-seok would choose to use 늘상 instead of either 늘 or 항상 in a book about the Korean language. Actually, 늘상 should have been one of his examples in his article about redundancy in the Korean language.

Here is the sentence from the book:
그러나 이 언어들은 비록 독립된 언어와 방언의 경계가 늘상 또렷한 것은 아니지만, 프랑스어의 방언이 아니라 엄연히 독립된 언어들로 인정되고 있다.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Do you live in an "In" neighborhood?

The following is a Korean address for a neighborhood in Kangneung City, Gangwon Province, South Korea:
강원도 강릉시 구정면 어단리
Unlike in the United States, where addresses are listed from small to big (street / city / state), Korean addresses are listed from big to small (province / city / district / neighborhood). Notice that the above address starts with the name of the province (도), then the city (시), then the district (면), and finally the village (리) or neighborhood (동):
  1. Gangwon Province (강원도)
  2. Gangneung City (강릉시)
  3. Gujeong District (구정면)
  4. Eo-Dan Village (어단리)
The reason you see a village (리) inside a city (시) is because the city most likely expanded over time to eventually include the nearby village or villages. Anyway, the following is the same address written in Chinese characters:
江原道 (강원도) 江陵市 (강릉시) 邱井面 (구정면) 於丹里 (어단리)
Notice that the name of the neighborhood or village is 於丹里 (어단리). Since 里 (리) means village, does that mean the name of the village is 어단 (於丹)? I don't so. I think the name of the village was originally Red (단 丹) Village (里) because the 於 (어) in 於丹里 (어단리) is just the Chinese character for the prepositions at and in, which are usually written as 에 and 에서 in Korean. So, 於丹里 (어단리) literally translates as in Red Village.

In Korean, prepositions are placed after nouns, so they are more accurately called post-positions instead of pre-positions, but Chinese prepositions come before nouns, just as in English, which is why 於 (어) comes before 丹里 (단리) in the above Korean address.

In Korean, if you wanted to say or write, "I live in Gangneung City, Gangwon Province," you would say or write "나는 강원도 강릉시에서 산다." You would only use 에서 once, after the full place-name to which you are referring, and it would be the same if you were to give your full address. Therefore, apparently what happened was that some of the villagers in Red Village (단리 丹里), or their friends who were writing to them from other places, started adding 於 (어) to the addresses on their letters to indicate that they wanted to send their letters to people who lived in Red Village (於丹里 어단리). Eventually, people (probably those who did not really understand Chinese characters) began to think 어단리 was the village name instead of being the village name with a preposition. The rest is history.

Another reason I do not think 어 (於) was originally part of the village name is that there are hundreds of examples of this happening in Korean addresses. Below are just a few of them. Notice that the 어 (於) only appears in the last part of the address, similar to how 에서 would appear at the end of an address if someone were telling you in spoken Korean where he or she lived. Among the following addresses, one of them even ends with just 於里 (어리), which simply means in the village, suggesting that there is/was only one village in that particular district.
  • 강원도 (江原道) 강릉시 (江陵市) 성산면 (城山面) 어흘리 (於屹里)
  • 강원도 (江原道) 동해시 (東海市) 어달동 (於達洞)
  • 강원도 (江原道) 삼척시 (三陟市) 하장면 (下長面) 어리 (於里)
  • 경기도 (京畿道) 양주시 (楊州市) 어둔동 (於屯洞)
  • 경기도 (京畿道) 이천시 (利川市) 모가면 (暮加面) 어농리 (於農里)

Besides the above examples, hundreds more that can be seen HERE.

What is "White Field Korean"?

This morning I received in the mail the book in the photo below. It is a 421-page Korean language textbook that was written by Bruce Grant, author of "A Guide to Korean Characters." It was published in 1982 and was written for Mormon missionaries going to Korea. The dedication in the book reads as follows:
For All Who Serve in Korea Then, Now, and in the Future 
The book has 100 lessons, and each lesson is composed of four parts. Part A is "Language Forms," Part B "Common [Chinese] Characters," Part C "Korean Proverbs," and Part D "Reading." At the end of each reading, there is also a vocabulary list labeled "Definitions."

The interesting thing about the book are the readings in each chapter. They jump right into explaining the Mormon religion in Korean, with no hand-holding, and they are relatively long, about two pages each in small type with vocabulary lists that range from about 40 to 70 words each. If you average out the new vocabulary words to about 50 words for each reading and multiply that by 100 lessons, then you get a total of 5,000 vocabulary words. Wow! That is a lot of words for just one language book.  Here is the first line of the first paragraph of the first reading:
성신  
아담과 이브가 에덴 동산을 떠난 후, 그 들은 땅을 경작하기 시작했고 살아 나가기 위해서 여러 가지 일을 행해야 했다. 
There is no translation for the reading, so I will translate the first sentence here:
The Holy Spirt
After Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, they had to start farming the land and doing various things to survive. 
I had always been curious about this book but had never read or heard any real description of it, so when I saw a used copy selling online for only $4.06 with free shipping, I bought it. As for the title of the book, "White Field Korean," I assume "White Field" (백전 白田) was Bruce Grant's Korean name or pen name.