[with a side of kimchi, please]

Topic: Korean Language

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Korean Language in Culture and Society, a collection of essays on various aspects of the Korean language, from its elaborate system of status-based politesse to slang and proverbs.

A couple of early gems are the idiomatic phrases kkori-ch’ida (꼬리치다), literally “tail-wiggle,” meaning “to seduce,” and obŏ-hada (오버하다), literally “to overdo,” which means what it sounds like. My colleague Young-ae gave me an example of the latter: When her sister told her three-year-old daughter to take off his pants, he took off all his clothes. “Obŏ-haeyo (오버해요)!” she scolded — “You overdid it!”

Pokkŭm mŏri a la king.

But what I really love is this: when North Korea decided to purge the counterrevolutionary Chinese, Japanese and English loan-words from its language in favor of native Korean neologisms (or occasionally Russian loan-words), the term p’ama (파마), or “perm,” became unacceptable. Instead, what the Dear Leader has atop his head, now mercifully free of bourgeois taint, is pokkŭm mŏri (볶음 머리), which literally means “fried hair.”

North Korea: bringing dignity to the Korean people since 1945.

Also published on Medium.