山村訓長但知覓

The Sanchon Hunjang
(usually clicking on the photos yields an enlarged version)

9/28/2005

 

Retching hills

I'm pretty sure that everyone has had the fun experience of dodging sidewalk pizzas left over from Friday evening revelers. Oh how the Sanchon Hunjang enjoys that weekend morning activity.

Anyway, there's that funny word that Koreans use to mean "to vomit," 오바이트. Most Koreans are convinced that this is the English word for the same action. The Sanchon Hunjang can't even count the number of times that someone has been telling a story that has vomiting in it, they get to that part, make a vivid hand motion...


...and then say "있잖아, 오바이트."

Everyone probably knows that the real Korean words to describe this are 토하다 and the somewhat clinical sounding 구토하다. Either way, that would be 吐: 토할 토. Some people may want to go on at some length about the "dirt coming out of the mouth" aspect of this word, but that kinda thing is just not my bag.

Strangely, many people seem to have not not heard of mountains vomiting. But they do it all the time, at least according to those poems written in classical Chinese by Koreans (or Chinese). Let me cite an example by the star of the 5,000원 note:

花石亭〉 李珥 (이이) "Flower and Stone Pavilion" by Yi I (1536-1584)

林亭秋已晩, It is already late autumn at the forest pavilion,
騷客意無窮. But there is no end to the poet's thoughts.
遠水連天碧, Distant waters merge into the heavens' blue,
霜楓向日紅. Frosty maples, face the sun's red.
山吐孤月輪, The mountain coughs up a lonely moon-wheel;
江含萬里風. The river holds the wind of ten-thousand li.
寒鴻何處去, To what place are the cold geese going,
聲斷暮雲中? Their sounds disappearing among the evening clouds?

☞ 花: 꽃 화, 石: 돌 석, 亭: 정자 정.
李: 오얏 리, 珥: 귀거리 이.
林: 수풀 림, 亭: 정자 정, 秋: 가을 추, 已: 이미 이, 晩: 늦을 만, 騷: 시체 이름 소, 客: 나그네 객 [소객=시인], 意: 뜻 의, 無: 없을 무, 窮: 다할 궁.
遠: 멀 원, 水: 물 수, 連: 이을 련, 天: 하늘 천, 碧: 푸를 벽, 霜: 서리 상, 楓: 단풍나무 풍, 向: 향할 향, 日: 날 일, 紅: 붉을 홍.
山: 메 산, 吐: 토할 토, 孤: 외로울 고, 月: 달 월, 輪: 바퀴 륜 [월륜=보름 달], 江: 강 강, 含: 머금을 함, 萬: 일만 만, 里: 리(거리를 재는 단위) 리, 風: 바람 풍.
寒: 찰 한, 鴻: 큰기러기 홍, 何: 어찌 하, 處: 곳 처, 去: 갈 거, 聲: 소리 성,斷: 끊을 단, 暮: 저물 모, 雲: 구름 운, 中: 가운데 중.


This is by no means an isolated example. Such famous poets as Du Fu 杜甫 두보 wrote about mountains regurgitating the moon, and Su Shi 蘇軾 소식 (a.k.a. 소동파) even wrote a cycle of five poems about it happening during each of the watches of the night.

Ah, if only those sidewalk 오바이트 could be as poetic...

Comments:
My personal fav is when it is cold and the sidewalk pizza freezes leaving the birds with a better preserved platter to come peck at throughout the day.
 
Just out of curiousity, do you know where "오바이트" (the word as opposed to the actual object) actually comes from? I've been wondering since the first time I had to tell someone it wasn't English.
 
Wyatt: The link on my page goes to Naver 지식, were several users say that it comes from "over eat."
 
Could it possibly come directly from "vomit"?
 
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