A Candy for the Teacher
What’s that noise you make in your language when you’ve eaten something intensely sour, like lemon or a kumquat which isn’t sweet enough to rescue your distaste? In English-English it might be ‘shhh-it!’ In Korean it’s ‘ai-sh-yo’ (아이셔), though in practice it probably sounds more like ‘ ai-shhhhh-yo!’ The duration of the ‘sh’ a measure of intensity. Not sure what I mean? Let me elucidate; this is ‘sh-it!’ or ‘ai-sh-yo!’:
Apart from being the sound to accompany something unpleasantly sour, like munching on a lemon, Ai-sh-yo is also the name of a chewy confectionary. Kids love to give these candies to teachers and they can be considered the Korean equivalent, innocent and friendly, of spitting in your coffee or putting a tack on your seat. When I was first offered them I noticed a strange expectation on students’ faces, a twinkle in their eyes and the slight anticipatory twitch of a smile but took little notice; I’m orally fixated and the candy was quite nice, initially a little tart and tangy but quickly rescued by sweetness as you continue to chew. I’d eaten quite a few over the week until I discovered their more sinister purpose
I was busy chewing, waiting for the sweetness to curb the rapidly soaring sensation of intensified sourness… Then I realised, with a curse, ai-shhhh (the Korean equivalent of ‘fuck!’), that there wasn’t an iota of sweetness in it but a solely nasty sourness. My students were in hysterics by the time I spat it into a tissue.
Yes, in every blue packet of the gum, 450 Won (about 25 pence) exists one surprise candy that is simply revoltingly sour. The yellow packet is a tart candy that starts off sour but mellows.
‘Ai-shhhhhhhh-yo!’ ‘Super sour flavour in it.’
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.