Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Korean Adventure (August 2, 2002 Chautauqua)

"Enjoy your outdoor life with National Icebox. Through the green maze of quaking aspens and burly cottonwoods, the squirrel's eyes glitter silver. Black eddies shimmer like mirrors. Riffles sparkle like pools of diamonds, and the quiet holes cast the glow of awesome emeralds. The valley of the northern alps is almost a magical place for the camper and the back packer. Perhaps there is no finer place."

The preceding piece of prose is featured on a picnic cooler that my friend Mick Dundee rescued from a rubbish "tip." It is an example of what some foreigners disparagingly refer to as "Konglish." It is an attempt by a Korean with a limited knowledge of our language to use it to sell something. It has been under fire most recently for the slogan of Korea's soccer team: "Korea Fighting."

Some critics thought that such a violent term, used to support a soccer team, might be seen as a contribution to "hooliganism" that sometimes mars soccer games. The opposite happened here, as most Korean soccer fans were well-behaved, and their celebrations did not include rioting. There were hundreds of thousands of them gathered in the streets to watch the games on huge-screen TVs, and not only were they well-behaved, they even cleaned up after themselves.

A sign outside a classroom at the downtown campus of Juseong University.

Of course, some of the malapropisms can be quite amusing. I saw one woman's t-shirt that read: "On The Ruins Of This Body." What that meant exactly I do not know, as the body looked to be in good shape to me. Another woman's t-shirt read "If I Wink Him, Will He Stop Walking?" A most curious pick-up line.

A sign in the Tsingtao Brewery in Qingdao, China.

Menus can provide a bit of a laugh. I've seen "Whisky" spelt "Wheshy." "White Wine" comes out as "Whie Wine." These are just ordinary spelling errors that any proof reader could have caught. Other mistakes provide some fairly risqué humour amongst us foreigners. We were at one bar that listed "Cock" under the soft drinks. Mick said that that it should be under "Hard Liquor."

Some Korean retail outlets are named for pop culture references like "Barbie" and "Superman." One bar downtown is called "Swine" for reasons that are not readily apparent. Is the owner describing his food? Or his customers? Another establishment advertised itself as "Fruit Professional Shop." While wondering what "professional" fruit might taste like, I was distracted by the disturbing implications of a store called "Baby Cook And Food."

I love rock and roll. I love rum. This lets me love both at the same time!

A hair salon advertised "Total Hair Collection." Does this mean that the hairdressers are well versed in all the various forms of hair styling that might be requested? Or are they going to take all the hair on your body?

Every once in a while, someone with an English degree will write in to the Korea Herald, decrying the misuse of the language. I for one hope that the laughs just keep on coming.
In my first year, and for a few years thereafter, me and my friends would scrounge the leftovers that some Koreans would toss out: wardrobes, desks, tables (those little Chusok/Solnal ones), toys, etc. They weren't any less odd than than some of the collections the hagwons provided for us.
Once when we got a cake for a co-teacher, it said "Happy Birthdry."
If you go to Pohang Airport, there is a sign that reads "Welcome to Kyoungju."
What the Kimchi?
I'm sure our readers have many more examples.

No comments:

Post a Comment