Friday, October 26, 2007

Korean phonotactics and American English

I've occasionally wondered to myself at the process by with the Korean letter shieot (ㅅ) can be pronounced like a breathier version of an English s (삽 - sap - shovel), like an English sh (실 - shil - thread), like the t at the end of an English word (것 - geot - a thing) or like an English n (씻는다 - sshinneunda. This is because of the various rounds of sound changes that happen between the assembly of a Korean word and it's actual utterance. In the following examples, the capital letters represent the original or base pronunciation of the Korean letters (the phonemes); the lowercase letters represent the actual sounds produced.

  1. 삽 - SAB (shovel) >final consonant devoicing of B to p > sap

  2. 실 - SIL (thread) >S becomes sh before I and Y> shil

  3. 것 - GEOS (thing) > S becomes t at the end of a syllable > geot

  4. 씻는다 - SSIS-NEUN-DA (washing) >SS becomes ssh before I and Y > SSHISNEUNDA > S becomes t at the end of a syllable > SSHIT-NEUN-DA > T at the end of a syllable becomes N in front of a syllable beginning with N > sshinneunda
The first example shows the Korean letter shieot (ㅅ), which is basically pronounced like a breathy English s, coming out being pronounced like a breathy s (i.e. no overt sound change). The second to examples show shieot undergoing one sound change each, to sh and t, respectively. In the final example, the letter shieot first undergoes a sound change to t (as in example 3), and then undergoes a further change from t to n. Thus a letter which, in its most basic form is pronounced s comes to be pronounced n.

Fascinating, isn't it?

Yes, but what brings it to mind?
I recently heard two examples of spoken English that follow a similar sequence of sound changes, from s to d and from d to n.
The first one was uttered by Ginger from the reality real estate show "The Real Estate Pros".

She pronounced the word 'doesn't' as 'dudn't'.
The second example was a prisoner named Butch on an episode of This American Life entitled "Act V" who pronounces the words 'businessman' and 'business' as 'bidnessman and 'binness', respectively.
I guess the next step would be for this sound change to become generalized to similar environments. That would mean 'kiss me', 'Quiznos', 'his new business' and 'shiznit' coming to be pronounced 'kit me', Quidnos', 'hid new bidness' and of course 'shidnit'. I'll be on the lookout for this new pronunciations. If you hear any of them, be sure to let me know.

And, for those of you who don't speak Korean and those of you who've learned it and have begun to forget just what an accomplishment it is, here are a few other examples from the twisted world of Korean phonotactics.

N becomes l
  • 관리 -GWANLI (control) > N becomes l before L > gwalli

L becomes r

  • 바람 - BALAM (wind) > L becomes r between two vowels > baram
D becomes n
  • 받는다 - BAD-NEUN-DA (getting) > D becomes n in front of N > banneunda

T becomes n

  • 맡는다 - MAT-NEUN-DA (taking over) > T becomes n in front of N > banneunda
T becomes ch
  • 같이 - GAT-I (together, alike) > T becomes ch in front of I > gachi
H becomes nothing
  • 넣어 - NEOH-EO (put in) > H disappears between vowels > neoeo
B becomes p
  • 겁 - GEOB (fear) > B becomes P at the end of a syllable > geob
B becomes M
  • 겁나 - GEOB-NA (afraid) > B at the end of the syllable becomes M in front of N > geomna
GL becomes ngn
  • 격려 - GYEOG-LYEO (encourage) > G at the end of the syllable becomes ng before L > GYEONG-LYEO > L becomes n after NG > gyeongnyeo

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Newest American trend to hit Korea: calling dudes gay

This blows my mind. Effeminate Korean singer Brian from duo Fly to the Sky

goes on Gag Concert, only to be ragged on by has-been singer Lee Sang-won

for being gay. My translations are based on this article from Sports Chosun.

Lee: Where did all the talk of you cross-dressing and dating [Fly to the
Sky bandmate Eru] come from?
Brian: It's a misunderstanding due to the fact that we're so close. And sometimes I go to hang out at Eru's house and
sleep over.
Lee: [Older entertainer] Tae Jin-a always says you're so pretty . . .
Brian: Of course. I think of myself as his son.
Lee: Do you think of yourself as his son or daughter-in-law?

Lee then ordered Brian to do push-ups to prove his manhood.

Now what I want to know is where Lee Sang-won got this homophobic gay-bashing attitude from. It's one of America's most unsavory distinguishing characteristics and I've long cited its absence from Korea as a definite point in its favor (Not that it means Korea's any more enlightened about homosexuality than the U.S.)

I suspect that the audience watching Gag Concert that night was very perplexed by the attack. I mean, Korea is the land of the pink shirt, and whether or not Korean men are more in touch with their feminine side because they don't believe in the existence of Korean homosexuals, it remains true that Korean men can act in a manner that would get them brutally teased in the U.S. without fear of recrimination.

I don't know whether Lee Sang-won learned to be made insecure by other men during years of has-been exile in America or what, but I sincerely hope that his nasty sniping doesn't rub off on any impressionable Korean kids.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A super-easy Korean side dish

On Saturday my wife, mother and I went to Flushing, New York for my cousin's borthday. My Uncle and two cousins took us into Koreatown to go shopping. The two things Miyoung jumped at were cucumber kimchi and odeng.
Actually Eomuk. The Hanareum Mart that we went to had plenty of girls and ajummas giving out free samples, and the girl doling out the Busan Eomuk and I had a passionate discussion about the difference between odeng and eomuk and the proper English term for it. 'Is it fish paste?' Her sign said 'fish cake', which I know isn't technically correct but is much more appetizing. It seems to us that both fish paste and fish cake are misnomers, but what are the other options? Fish Roll-up? Fish sheets?
As you may well know, odeng is considered an import from Japan, while eomuk, associated most closely with Busan, is the 'original Korean article'. I would say in general eomuk is somewhat softer and spongy than odeng, but otherwise tastes the same.
Anyway, today I've got a nice easy recipe for fried odeng/eomuk.
First get your nice sheets of odeng/eomuk.

Slice it into whatever shape you like, rinse and soak it in hot water to release some of the grease and delicious saturated fat.

Slice up a nice onion.

Get out your soy sauce. I recommend Korean 'Jin' Soy Sauce (진간장) You'll need about a tablespoon.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the cut odeng/eomuk, the sliced onion, the soy sauce and about a tablespoon of sugar

Fry it up until it looks like this.

That'll last you about three days if you're Korean or, if you want to eat it American-ly, it won't be enough for one meal.

Dumbest idea of the week

Thank you, Yanek Mieczkowski, Chairman of the History department at Dowling College, for exposing me to the worst analogy I've heard in a while. In his October 14th editorial for Newsday, the paper of record, entitled "Ike would not have gotten us into Iraq", Yanek compares Eisenhower's reaction to Sputnik to Bush's rection to the September 11th attacks. His thesis:
Though the Sept. 11 attacks struck America harder than Sputnik in terms of death and destruction, the aftershocks of both events were similar. How the U.S. president reacted couldn't have been more different.

I say thesis because this piece couldn't be more of a sophist, ivory tower think piece and screams "I have never had a job outside of academia."
Here is the money shot.
Despite - perhaps because of - today's war on terror, it would be easy to envision Eisenhower pushing for joint Arab-American space activities, perhaps inviting the first Muslim astronaut to fly aboard the space shuttle, while also bolstering economic ties and trade with the Middle East.

Eisenhower would have reacted to September 11th by putting Muslims in space. Why didn't we think of that?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

For those of you who know Maple Story . . .

. . . as a game for Korean elementary school kids, check out this commercial

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ambient ephemera from America for all you guys in Korea

If you're anything like me, you often wondered what kind of junk you're missing by choosing to live in America. To give you an idea of the kind of inane cultural junk that you'd be passively ingesting if you were sitting on your couch in America, here's a commercial for HeadOn.

What is HeadOn? Whatever you imagine it to be. Available at Walgreens.

Some Swiss have no love for chocolate

As evidenced by this campaign poster by the Swiss nationalist party SVP
The black sheep, by the way, is an immigrant.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Is Bush a genocide denier?

The headline of the Deutsche Welle article is "Bush denies Armenian genocide". The action which this article describes as denial is
rejecting a proposal by lawmakers to officially classify the massacre and displacement of Armenians between 1915 and 1918 as genocide.

Does this sound like a fair characterization to you?

My reaction to the new Inter-Korean Agreement in a nutshell

a) Roh Moo-hyun and his predecessor Kim Dae-jung and cohorts have created, in the Sunshine Policy, an atmosphere in which South Korea expects to reconcile with North Korea through dialogue Advances are touted by astute politicians while setbacks are studiously ignored.

b) As the Marmot points out, likely next president Lee Myeong-bak will be politically bound to go through with the joint plans made by Roh and Kim Jong-il. To not do so would be seen as unacceptable provocation.

c) As much of the joint projects will be funded by private industry (hat tip to the Marmot again), Korea's corporations will have a vested interest in both the international perception that North Korea is making progress and the continued cooperation of the Kim regime.

d) With both politicians and corporations in South Korea heavily invested in the perception of progress on the North-South issue, advances both real and imagined will be touted more vigourously while setbacks will be swept so far under the linoleum that it'll take the ondol extra long to heat up.

e) As for North Korea, they now recognize that pointing missiles at Seoul and threatening to turn the city into a lake of fire is no longer a viable means of extorting aid. It is both cheaper and easier to demilitarize while allowing the placement of South Korea's public and private sector's cherished symbols of peninsular unity to be built, at South Korean expense, in North Korea. Now, all North Korea needs to put South Korea in appeasement mode is close a plant or, in a kind of reverse Gazprom maneuver, close the South Korea-China train line. A master stroke, I must say.

Reconciliation in the air

You've got your Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il, your Aung San Suu Kyi and Than Shwe, your Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf, all trying to put the past behind them and make things work out.
For my money, I'm betting on the Burmyanmar Two to collapse first, followed by Bhutto and Musharraf, and finally Kim Jong-il and future president Lee Myeong-bak, in the most spectacular clash of all.

More of your pension in risky nations and currencies

Xinhua News, of all places, reports that the World Bank is floating a US$5 billion bond denominated in the currencies of poor nations in order to
increase investment by Western pension funds and Asian nations with bulging reserves in countries that are considered relatively risky bets.
the ulterior motive of this bond issue is the hope that citizens of poorer nations will be more able to borrow funds in local currencies, for the baffling reason that
would help reduce the risks developing nations face when there are large swings in the value of major currencies.
I mean, they specifically say that these currencies they're issuing the bonds in are risky, so how is encouraging poor people to borrow money in these currencies going to reduce risks of any kind?

Guess the headline

Here is a series of events that happened in Afghanistan:

  • U.S. troops were searching a compound early on Friday when Taleban fighters opened fire and threw several grenades.
  • Two children died when a suicide bomber approaching an Afghan military compound blew himself up prematurely.
  • The bodies of a woman and child were found in a building that coalition forces destroyed because it was a Taleban hideout.
  • The coalition forces accused the Taleban of putting innocent people in danger by hiding among them.

Now which of the following do you think is the headline of this BBC News article?

a) U.S. troop wounded in grenade attack
b) Suicide bomber claims two child victims
c) Civilians die in Afghanistan raid
d) Taleban uses human shields

Answer here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Let's thank our lucky stars that Korean parents don't care about sports

In Yangban-influenced Korea, the greatest way to spend one's time is thought to be in frantic, often fruitless study. Kids increasingly raised on fried junk bought off stands in front of their cram schools are doughy and fact-laden.
In Jackie Chan and Yao Ming influenced, Olympics-crazed China, however, the greatest way to spend one's time is apparently thought to be forcing your children to become sports stars. First there was the little girl whose dad had her running from Hainan to Beijing, and now there's the dad who threw his daughter in icy cold water with her hands and feet bound for three hours so that she could someday achieve *ahem* her dream of swimming the English Channel.
Come on, ajeosshis, get your kids out there and spinning on their heads, so that Korea can maintain its B-Boy supremacy!

Photo tips for mediocre photographers like me

OK, you're like me: you've got a ~$300 camera (I've got a Canon that I would recommend to anybody) and you want to take good pictures. You find yourself in Seaworld (probably the best park in Orlando, but more on that later) and you want to take a picture of your lovely wife in front of a twelve-foot manatee. Click.

It looks like she's standing in front of a mackerel.
You move on to the Hospitality Center and Clydesdale Corral. There's a chain blocking you off from the Clydesdale. Click.

The mighty steed looks like a squirrel. This time you refuse to leave well enough alone. How can you, a camera illiterate like me, make something in the background look big?
Back it up and zoom in. Click.

Keep backing up and zooming. Click.

If only I had known this back at the Manatee Preserve.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A little Korean Jew-baiting for you

According to the Marmot, the Incheon residents who put up the banner
are upset about plans to develop their area into a tourism and leisure zone as part of the IFEZ project. Jack Rosen is reportedly a major player in the development project.

But lest you think this is a good old-fashioned Jewish conspiracy, rest assured that it is as Korean as aju-ma, baseball and giant/tasteless/mealy apple pie, the protesters' land was stolen from them and given to the foreign developer by (dun dun dunnn) the government.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's a slightly less small world

I'm on vacation in Florida right now, and on line for the It's A Small World ride at the Magic Kingdom I realized that there was an extremely high chance that either a) there are no Koreans on the ride or b) there were some Korean dolls awkwardly shoehorned into the ride.

Upon entering the Asia room, I was prepared to have my first guess confirmed as I saw a stylized Chinese backdrop with a stylized Japanese backdrop right next to it. I know the picture below is dark, but Japan is on the left, China on the right, and the only thing between the two is the yellow bridge.

Continuing on, I instead saw that my second guess was in fact correct. The two Korean dolls in the place were placed far off from anything identifiably Korean on their own little stage.
Now take a close look at the Chinese guy from the upper left hand corner of the above photo. He's very abstract and very typical of the Small World ride.
Now have a gander at the two Korean dolls, dressed in their intricately detailed hanbok.
They stick out like a sore thumb. These hanbok look like they're straight out of Dongdaemun Market. My wife says she saw two other Korean kids flying a kite, but I can't confirm that.
The last room the ride goes through has representatives of all the countries passed through wearing white and blue, angelic versions of their native garb. There there are no Korean dolls, although there are four Chinese dolls spinning plates and plenty of Japanese dolls too.
I suppose that, to make up for their sleight against Korea, Disney has included a sign in Korean among it's farewells (again, sorry so dark).
A little closer now.

r look at the Chinese doll