Elwood 5566

Kids' Dictionaires

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Korean children by 노강호 on August 22, 2010

Whenever I use the Korean word ‘dong-sa’ (동사 – verb) in classes, kids will have a little giggle. Neither does it matter how softly I pronounce the ‘d’ and even almost annihilating it altogether, and saying ‘ong-sa,’ will be met with laughter. Well, my Korean is crap but adults don’t have a problem understanding it.

‘Shit’ is funny for Koreans probably because they’ve never had to smell it, but if you’re British you will undoubtedly recall numerous occasions when you’ve seen something strange on the carpet or on your shoe and like an idiot you’ve poked your finger in it,  sniffed it, and then recoiled in horror.

Korean 'dirty' humour

For Koreans, stories and cartoons in which shit is either a central feature or a passing reference, are common. And because they haven’t had to sniff it as much as us Brits, because our pavements are notorious for being strewn in dog shit, it can even be cute and  even pretty.  There is a popular Korean book (강아지 똥)  about the life and adventures of a sentient turd which ends up  sprouting a little  dandelion flower out of its head.

강아지 똥. A scatological version of the Ugly Duckling, story

And then there are the various references to shit: ‘shit flies’ (ddong-bari -똥 파리), chicken’s gizzards amusingly called a ‘dong-chip’ (똥집 – basically ‘shit-hole), as well as the habit kids have of poking their clasped fingers up your backside in a ‘ddong-ch’im’ (똥침 – a ‘shit injection/needle’).

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Only yesterday, I was asked what  ‘ddong-ch’im’  was in English. ‘Perverted,’ I replied. I had to explain how strange we find the ‘dong-ch’im’ habit and while many waygukins will see it as cute, amusing, and harmless, myself included, I read two posts yesterday, where the authors, men of course,  claimed they would ‘severely damage’ any kid who touched ‘that area.’ For western men, especially British and Americans, ‘that area’ is a powder keg of sensitivity and touching it likely to ignite all sorts of problems. It’s all silly of course, and culturally constructed!  The male fear of their bottoms being touched and their over-protective attitudes towards them, are as ridiculous as women fearing spiders or mice. Get, real! You have to have a very insecure image of your own sexuality to find a little kiddy touching the back of your trousers, a threat! You can’t translate ‘dong-ch’im’ into English, not effectively,  – ‘bum sting,’ ‘butt-stab,’ ‘anal-poke..;’ none of them really work and as they all carry sexual connotations,  ‘ddong-injection’ or simply ‘dong-ch’im’ are probably the most effective renditions.

Cute, cartoon turds

As for associating food with anal passages, nothing is more likely to put me off. Cat shit, dog shit, I’ve smelt them all and any food which reminds me of that filthy orifice is unwelcome. I’ll only eat mak-chang ( 막창 – barbecued intestines) if I’m pissed as colonic conduits aren’t my thing unless severely minced, mashed and renamed a sausage.  I’m even put off the idea of chicken feet (닭발) because they spend all day tramping on shite. Conversely however, I love sucking the juicy fat off of an English chicken’s ass, after it’s been plucked, basted and roasted, of course! This exception exists because the name, ‘parson’s nose,’  isn’t a reminder of its actual location or function. A Parson’s nose, the very point at which poop is birthed, is almost respectable and reminds me of Sunday afternoons as a child when being offered that fatty morsel for lunch, was a treat. Tastes are all socially constructed!

More 'turdy fun.'

While Koreans will tolerate ‘ddong’ and its various manifestations, the don’t like piss.  They call piss, ‘dirty water,’ though I don’t particularly find it dirty. I’d much rather be pissed over than shat on, if forced into making a choice, and if ever I was shat on, being pissed over  afterwards would be positively refreshing  by comparison.

Middle school dictionary

I have three different student dictionaries and all of them of them contain drawings of the human anatomy. They quite interest me as in all three dictionaries, plus a similar poster on the wall of a classroom in my school, the bodies are androgynous. Shortly below the belly button, biology ceases and anything happening in this area does so by some assumed, magical process. In three of the four examples, the poop shoot  continues down until it meets the world which is fairly important as the poop shoot is the source of so much Korean humour, but other than this, all other tubing and their associated mechanics, urinary and reproductive, have been censored.

No poop shoot!

And while the drawings have all been denuded of rude bits and the dictionaries purged of anything sensitive, so as to limit speculation, analysis, discussion and questioning, there are instead a numbers of words English speakers rarely, if ever, use. I often have occasions to use words associated with reproduction and urination, as most  English speakers will,  but I have never used the word ‘scurf’, ‘ordure,’ ‘nose wax,’ or ‘eye wax.’  An understanding of what ‘wax’ is, is clearly missing when the translator defines ‘sleep,’ as ‘eye-wax.’ Indeed, ‘scurf’ and ‘ordure,’ I had to look-up in a dictionary as they are uncommon to me. I’m not even sure, without further consultation, how you would use ‘ordure.’ My ordure was tumultuous, perhaps? I need  to ordurate? Whatever, I clearly like the word!

Redundant dirt

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


4 Responses

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  1. Hamish Nelson said, on August 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

    For you an anal-jab might be okay…. for me I don’t think so. For my boss now who is American/Korean she doesn’t see it as a joke either, to the point of posting signs and punishing kids who do it.
    You should ask Jack in one of my classes if he’ll ever do it again to me……I think not. I could only tell him off, she on the other hand!

  2. Nick said, on August 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t think my personal feelings should have too much to do with it. It is a cultural difference and that is why I am in Korea. Once Korean bends to the ways of the west and western values, especially American social values, it will be time to leave Korea. We westerners tend to moan when treated like foreigners and moan more when treated like Koreans. We should welcome the ‘butt jab’ because it should make you feel Korean. Once you ban this cultural quirk, what do you ban next, skinship, unhygienic chopstick culture? Personally, one reason I left the UK was because I was pissed off with foreigner practices being foisted on and given precedence over, British ones.

    Anyway, Hamish, just my views. Bottoms don’t bother me, even as a gay man I find the idea of sex in that area utterly repugnant. Personally, kiddies poking their fingers in that area is much less alarming than the thought of people using it for other purposes, most especially ones involving a tongue. Hope things are going well!

    • Hamish Nelson said, on August 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm

      Yeah I totally understand where you are coming from and I apologize if it seemed I was having a go at you personally. For me I find the whole experience totally nasty. I love Korea (most days) or I would have never returned or gotten married here.
      I don’t know about welcoming the ‘butt jab’, as I’m a foreigner I find its not for me (it’s wrong-please Korean to Korean) but again you might be right. If I don’t accept it then where do I draw the line?
      I do enjoy your writing and as I drink my next scotch I will be reading with interest. At least you make people think which is more than I can say for a lot of other blogs out there.
      And yeah I’m sweet as. Full on day and still one more day before the munchkins return.

      • Nick said, on August 29, 2010 at 6:18 am

        I think I’ve read enough of your comments and your own blog to know your response wasn’t meant with any hostility! Don’t worry!

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