I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Pax Mongolica May 20, 2007

Filed under: Korea — Raven @ 1:14 am
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There was a time when the Mongols ruled half the world. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but I’m too lazy to look up exactly how much they ruled. Suffice it to say that, like the Romans, they were all over the important parts of the world (I mean the parts they saw as important, which aren’t the same parts the Romans thought were important). And, like the Romans, they left stuff behind. Linguistic stuff.

I know how this linguistic stuff got into Russian. Russia was, naturally, one of the places the Mongols decided was important, and unlike the wimpy French and Germans, they weren’t deterred by the Russian winter. So they showed up and took over and left behind some words (I’m sure they left behind some babies, too, but those aren’t relevant to this blog post).

The Mongols also invaded Korea, which became their tributary for about 80 years. I am now discovering Korean words that have counterparts in Russian or the Central Asian languages. Granted, I don’t have too many so far. But here’s what I’ve got:

1. 가람 (karam). According to my dictionary, this means a Buddhist temple. Russian has the word храм (khram), which means a church or temple.

2. 만두 (mandu). This is a dumpling. Kazakhs refer to their dumplings as манты (manty).

3. 사랑 (sarang). This is not to be confused with the word 사랑 which is spelled and pronounced exactly the same and means love. This one, again according to my dictionary, means a detached room used as a man’s quarters. This may be a bit of a stretch, but I’m wondering if it’s related to the Mongol word sarai, which I’m told means palace, although it might mean city (I’m having trouble finding the exact etymology). The Russians, showing their great disdain for things Mongol, adopted the word and use it to mean barn (сарай).

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got so far. Maybe I’m reaching. But I think the parallels are interesting. Now I just need mdb to weigh in on these words in Chinese and someone who speaks Hindi (anyone?) to weigh in on the Indian variations, if any.

P.S. I looked it up after all. Read more about the Pax Mongolica here.

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Why cell phones are so popular in Korea November 21, 2006

Filed under: Korea — Raven @ 3:59 am
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While browsing Korea-related sites the other day I came across a list of social niceties, otherwise known as rules of etiquette (scroll to the bottom of that page for the list). Many of them, of course, made perfect sense: respect your parents, don’t point, clean your plate (although in this era of obesity I tend to think the last one is a bit dated… but I also have a feeling there are fewer obese Koreans). But in the course of reading over the list, I came across a couple of gems, such as:

“Do not cut in line in public.”

Presumably if you’re standing in line in private, it’s okay to cut? I’m trying to think when exactly one might be doing that, since lines in general tend to be public things. I mean, unless you’re lining up for the bathroom in your home. I suppose that might qualify as a private line. Maybe. But I imagine it would also qualify as a line where cutting would not be taken well.

I also came across this one:

“When on the phone, do not hang up before the other hangs up.”

Okay. This is why cell phones are popular in Korea. Because you can never hang up. I mean, never. Each party is waiting for the other party to hang up, and neither party will because it would be rude (sounds like my chats with my sister, not that she and I generally have any problem being rude to each other… in a nice sisterly way, of course)! So, since you can’t hang up, you’re compelled to engage in all activities with a phone glued to your ear. I assume getting your first phone call must be a momentous event, and you probably want to be unavailable if it’s someone you don’t want to be talking to for the rest of your life or until you decide to be rude, whichever comes first. I am so warped: I’ve been thinking of this rule and my misinterpretation pretty much every time I’ve hung up the phone today, and my job entails talking on the phone A LOT.

Finally, here’s one that I thoroughly approve of or thoroughly disapprove of, depending on who I’m with:

“Pay for any meal shared with those younger than you.”

Wait, is that real age or emotional age?