The Sanchon Hunjang
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Introduction to Classical Chinese

The Sanchon Hunjang was going through some old files and stumbled across one from a long time ago. In the school library there was this old, hand-written mimeographed manuscript that was bound together. It was titled Introduction to Classical Chinese and was apparently written by Professor Peter Boodberg of the Unviersity of California at Berkely.

The manuscript was a series of 10 chapters, each of which had 20 characters that were introduced and then used in four different sets of drills. The first set glossed pronunciation in the traditional way you would see in a traditional dictionary or notes to a text, the second set glossed meaning again in the way you would find in a dictionary or textual annotation, the third set was a series of parallel sentences and the final was practice with short sentences. In addition to the 10 chapters there was also an introductory chapter called A, that uses the 214 radicals under which characters are filed in traditional dictionaries as the basis for its drills rather than 20 characters and also contains an additional section of proper names.

I'm not a copyright lawyer, but the condition and age of the manuscript leads me to believe that nobody would be bothered or harmed to see it come to light. I am not convinced how much time it is worth investing in, but I'll post the first chapter (Chapter A) as a barometer for interest.

A. Pronunciation Glosses
(1)非音飛 (2)无音毋 (3)匸音方 (4)雨音羽 (5)赤音彳 (6)黍音鼠 (7)首音手 (8)夂音黹 (9)囗音韋 (10) 冖音糸

B. Definition Glosses
(1)竹皮曰靑 (2)大鼓曰田 (3)一人曰一口 (4)大曰門小曰戶 (5)土山曰阜 (6)十斗曰石 (7)水豆曰豆 (8)馬二目白曰魚

C. Proper Names
(1) 老子 (2)比干 (3)鬼谷子 (4)尸子 (5)黃香 (6)高辛氏 (7)高齊 (8)田齊 (9)非子 (10)小白 (11)方言 (12)玉門 (13)金山 (14)長白山 (15)鳥鼠山 (16)黃巾 (17)鬼方 (18)黑齒 (19)月氏[氏音支] (20)大食,黑衣大食

D. Parallel Phrases
(1) 二人一口 (2) 木人石心 (3) 日赤月白 (4) 目見足行
(5) 牛角羊毛 (6) 香風甘雨 (7) 金谷玉田 (8) 竹馬木牛
(9) 黑衣玄玉 (10) 赤子老人 (11) 山雨谷水 (12) 白日靑山
(13) 羽足飛走 (14) 食麥衣皮 (15) 十日一雨 (16) 自小至大
(17) 鳥身人言 (18) 黃金白韭 (19) 血赤骨白 (20) 入門見子
(21) 白首黃口 (22) 石衣山韭 (23) 鼎大魚小 (24) 玉門金山
(25) 白毛黑文 (26) 文身皮面 (27) 行尸走肉 (28) 一目十行
(29) 大言小心 (30) 龜毛馬角 (31) 黑角白羽 (32) 一玄二黃
(33) 玄鳥靑龍 (34) 飛鳥走犬 (35) 弓人田父 (36) 龍文魚目
(37) 卜人方士 (38) 甘言鼎食 (39) 干戈弓矢 (40) 火老金生

E. Short Sentences
(1) 入山,入谷 (2)食魚,食肉 (3)土赤,面赤 (4)山高,食甘,毛長 (5)日入,日長,日食 (6)風生,生子,木生 (7)雨止,止雨 (8)風入衣,鼠入穴 (9)食大麥,食羊肉 (10)鼠食豆,人食麥 (11)入玉門,至馬邑 (12)玄鳥至,馬毛長 (13)大麥黃,衣食足 (14)見大人,子入戶 (15)小人鼓舌 (16)犬食人食 (17)見龍无首 (18)一角鹿見 (19)八月大水 (20)馬氏生女 (21)見一老人 (22)食一豆肉 (23)示人赤心 (24)水鳥食魚 (25)衣白麻衣 (26)子生而色赤 (27)士食十八人 (28)小水入大水 (29)至赤石川口 (30)見鼠白日行 (31)生子又生二女 (32)子八月而生齒 (33)子曰白馬非馬 (34)土生甘金生辛 (35)八月乙酉日食 (36)八月辛酉雨黃土 (37)牛生子二首一身 (38)十一月乙酉大風 (39)老子曰山生金石生玉 (40)八月石邑言黃龍二見 (41)自谷口至龍文山二十里 (42)見一黃衣人入門 (43)又行八里見一高山 (44)人十月而生馬十二月而生 (45)大而行小小而行大 (46)十月八日行二十里至大川又行十八里至火山 (47)木生火火生土土生金金生水 (48)龍首山長八十里 (49)大食人鼻大而長 (50)又曰囗山羊食鹿豕

Two quick notes:

  1. Sound glosses are simple critters. Knowing or not knowing the sounds may be another matter... If it says X音Y, then that means X has the same sound as Y. There's also another system for "spelling" the sound of one character using two others. This pattern is XYZ切 or XYZ反, either way, the meaning is "X is prounounced with the beginning sound (opening consonant) of Y and the closing sound (vowel and any closing consonant as well as tone) of Z. So, for example, 二而至切音貳 would say 二(이) sounds like the first part of 而(이☞ㅇ) and the last part of 至(지 ☞ ㅣ) [so ㅇ+ㅣ = 이], and the same as 貳(이).

    Sometimes the sounds have shifted somewhat so they are not always 100% accurate. But it doesn't matter because in a text, they are usually trying to give you a hint as to the tone of the word, so you can tell the difference between 好 (rising 上 tone) "good" versus 好 (departing 去 tone) "to like," for instance.

  2. Anyone with interest can see these sound and meaning glosses in action in the traditional dictionary, the Kangxi Dictionary 康熙字典, which has been scanned and had the scanned pages posted online at www.kangxizidian.com. You find the radical on the left part of the page and the scans appear on the right. The big characters with no circles or anything around them are the dictionary entries and the double column stuff below each one is its definition, which includes the sources cited (characters enclosed in a box).



What is it with birds

There is this infamous obscene gesture that people sometimes use in North America. Somehow or another, one of its names has come to be the "bird." Why? Who knows. Somebody out there hates birds.

In Chinese the word for bird is 鳥. It's easy to find in the dictionary because it is its own signific. Easy, that is, if you don't get faked out by the feet (灬) , think it's some sort of ideogram for roast bird and try to find it under the fire signific. The funny thing about this bird is its sound. If you look it up (11 strokes for signific plus 0), you'll find that the dictionary tells you it's pronounced niăo in Mandarin.

Of course Chinese is a family of languages, including Mandarin. From the other dialects, as well as historical rhyming dictionaries, we would expect this character to sound like diăo in Mandarin. Lest you think the Sanchon Hunjang is making this up, check Professor W. Baxter of the University of Michigan's outline to the etymological dictionary of common Chinese characters that he is working on (you can find this word in file #5). Professor Baxter indicates that the sound has been changed to avoid a taboo. Now there are several kinds of taboo, the most common of which would be if it were the same character or sound as a king's name. Luckily George A. Kennedy gives us a bit more flavor when he says the "sound should be 'tiao' [his Wade-Giles t is equivalent to d in pinyin] but the n is a substitution to avoid a sexually tabooed homophone." The word that Professor Kennedy is too classy to mention, but the Sanchon Hunjang is not, is 屌 (that's 자지 초). Larger 옥편 will also indicate that one of the less frequently used meanings of 鳥 is 'u.f. 屌.'

Korea has collections of 奇聞 Strange [things] Heard, one of which includes the following tale.

一新郞合卺之夕疑其婦已經人, 欲使婦吐實地, 以手撫陰戶曰: “此孔甚窄. 以刀尖刺裂 可以納鳥.” 遂拔佩刀, 佯若刺裂之狀, 婦大懼急呼曰: “越邊金座首末子素稱, 不刺, 能納孔, 未有孔窄之事.” 云云.

I don't feel up to typing the definitions and sounds of all those words, but I'll do a mixed script 해석 with an 어려운 말 풀이 at the end:

One groom 新郞, on the evening when he exchanged wineglasses 合卺 (i.e. married), wondered if his wife had already experienced a man . He wanted to cause 使 his wife to cough up the full story 吐實地, and took his hand and while rubbing her 'shady doorway 陰戶,' said 曰: “This hole is quite narrow . I'll take a knife's point , stab it and rip it open , so it will 可以 admit my 'bird .'” Thereupon he pulled out the dagger at his waist , and pretended just like he was in the attitude of stabbing and ripping open . His wife was greatly afraid and hurriedly called out , saying : “The last son of Prefect Kim 金座首 from across on the other side (of the village?) 越邊 plainly speaking , he didn't stab , but was able to be admitted into the hole . There is no such thing as 未有 the case of a hole that is narrow .” And so on 云云.

☞ 合卺(합근): ①구식 혼례식의 절차의 하나. 신랑 신부가 잔을 주고 받는 일 ②혼례식을 지냄, 座首 (좌수): 조선(朝鮮) 시대(時代) 때 지방(地方)의 주(州)ㆍ부(府)ㆍ군(郡)ㆍ현(縣)에 두었던 향청(鄕廳)의 우두머리 육방(六房) 중의 이방(吏房)과 병방(兵房)을 맡아보았음 26대 고종(高宗) 32(1895)년에 향장(鄕長)으로 고쳤음 아관(亞官) 수향(首鄕).

So here we see in the wild acutal use of a bird representing that eel-like part of his anatomy that's always looking for a home. The annotator to the book that I got that quote from says that 鳥 is "남자 성기, 즉 '좆'의 이두 표기임." Maybe he needs a bigger 옥편, or then again, maybe he's right...unfortunately we don't get much etymological information from Korean dictionaries (Chinese either), so we are all left to wonder if these birds might not be related.

The real question is this, what exactly have birds done that has so angered humanity that the word "bird" is used in the East and West as a symbol for a sexually tabooed thingies?



What does it mean to speak in 반말

Most people who care are probably already aware that Korean has a whole c of different honorific language that applies in different situations. There are the generic bits of language that lend respect to the subject of the sentence (like ~께서, ~시), as well as more specific bits (like saying 잡수시다 instead of 먹다, or 말씀 instead of 말. 치아 has to be one of the most bizarre of these. Why do we need a special honored term for teeth when there's not one for other body parts? What's so special about teeth. I mean, there is a whole host of body part names that show disrespect, like 대가리 or 아가리, but no other honored ones. It's not like teeth are even a common body part in conversation. That one's just a mystery. But I digress...) and then there are those generic and specific bits of speech that demean the position of the speaker to make the listener more revered (~드리다, 올리다, 여쭙다, 모시다...).

Of course there would be no fun in having such an overtly complex system if there weren't social pressures operating on people to use them correctly. It shows you have poor breeding when you use them wrong. I don't by any stretch mean to imply that native speakers always use them all according to the rules. I mean the little 고졸 ladies in my office seem to have learned that "여쭙다" means to ask and it's used to show respect to someone but they don't quite get that it specificially means "ask to someone who belongs to a higher social station," so we get wierd stuff like "the vice president asked (여쭈신다) the 부장 if he has a lunch appointment."

A good portion of the fun of this complex system comes when first meeting people. That's when you have to walk on eggshells to make a good impression. And if you start using 반말 too quickly, you'll get called on it: "이 자식이 초면부터 반말하네!" First you have to slowly circle, sniffing each other, to determine the pecking order in order to decided who is older (and hence has the right to drop to 반말 and, should he/she so deign, to allow the other party to do the same), first.

The Sanchon Hunjang was trained by strict teachers to studiously avoid anything that would give off even the hint of an approaching 반말. This may have been a good thing, but watching interaction by true native speakers, it occurs to me that this whole 반말 thing is much more complex than it appears at first blush.

Most learners have somewhere along the way picked up the notion that it means '해요' without the '요.' You can see this reflected in the language pages of the new and promising 갈비찜 wiki. But you can see Korean people say things that are clearly missing the final '요,' but they are not called for using 반말. This is especially true if it includes a ~시~ infix. One common example: '아, 그러시구나!' Indeed, you can see younger folk speak to elders in 요-less speech with impunity for hours. Clearly it is not just the lack of a final '요' that goes into this 반말 that everyone objects to hearing from young whipper-snappers.

There must be something more to what the word '반말' means. Maybe the dictionary will help? Naver says that it is a type of speech that falls between '해라' and '하게' or '하오' and '하게' and then goes on to add that it is a type of speech that neither lifts the listener up nor speaks down to her. I don't know about you, but what this says to me is that the whole picture of speech levels suddenly has suddenly become very complicated. The #2 definition in Naver says that 반말 means to indiscriminently speak down to someone. Ah-hah this is the 반말 thing that people of low breeding are getting called on. It doesn't have anything specifically to do with 요's or lacks of same.

So what goes into this talking down to someone, which is clearly something more than just leaving off the '요'? The Sanchon Hunjang has observed that people can speak without '요' for a long time with no reaction, but the minute they use the word '너 (or it's dialect cousin 니),' or interject a '야,' suddenly what they said has just crossed a line and the listener may comment on the forwardness of this individual, or at least wince. Other things that push people over the line are '~니' or '~냐' question endings, '한다' type statements, '해라' commands, or using '응' for yes instead of '예.' There are many others. This all comes back to the fact that there is a social register in Korean speech, just as there is in English (or at least in the brand of English that I was taught to speak). And in spite of what I was led to believe by all of those confused comments about 'just make sure you say 요 at the end,' it would seem that what determines social register in Korean is at least as complex as English.

Unfortunately, this all brings us back to the difficult situation of knowing that there is a socially unacceptable danger lurking if I make a blunder, but no clear way to avoid the danger. Perhaps it's just best to stick to ~습니다, anyhow. God knows it's easier to conjugate. ^^

Merry Christmas요!



Who signs this stuff

The Sanchon Hunjang has been out of town all week, with limited internet access. Unfortunatley the same will be true through Christmas, so it would be best not to expect frequent posts in December.

On the trip out of the country, the Sanchon Hunjang found himself with some spare time at the airport. So I decided to browse the wares up for sale. This is usually an iffy proposition that I usually try to avoid. Best case is that I find nothing of interest, but more likely I run across some stupid (and very expensive) trinket that catches my interest and I put a dent in my wallet for yet another thing I didn't need. Much better to spend that time sitting quietly, book-in-hand.

Anyhow, over at the food court they had this 호박죽 that looked pretty good. Fortunately they were sold out and weren't inclined to make any more. Thank you! It was there that I saw this sign:

I am in the camp that says you can't expect perfect foreign languages on signs. Sure , it would be nice if they would go to the trouble to have a sign checked by a native speaker, especially if it's going to be in a place as frequented by the foreign friends as the airport... But I can accept the fact that the office in charge of sign making doesn't have a big budget. And they have 김사원, who spent 6 months abroad for language study. 김사원 can't very well 'fess up to his boss that he can't even string a few words together in a native way (which, by the way, is a much bigger challenge than it would appear. Try it in Korean sometime...). So it all goes unchecked. I'm okay with that. Sure "Broth To Chasa Hangover" isn't correct, but I get the gist.

But to just leave words as a question mark? "牛肉 解 ? 湯 Beef soup to relieve question marks"?!?!?!? What is that all about? And that in the final product that will be put on public display, no less. What a horrendous blunder!

☞ 牛: 소 우, 肉: 고기 육, 解: 풀 해, ?: 나 몰를 물음표, 湯: 끓일 탕.
An aside on the subject of using "解" as relieve (as opposed to "cut up" or "break into constituent parts"), there's this curious word for "restroom," especially ones located at Buddhist temples: "解憂所 place for the releiving of cares."

Hmmm. Probably best to click for the larger version of that photo...

The really strange thing, though, is that they have the same content on a different sign about a dozen yards away. But on this sign, everything is perfect! It all makes the earlier blunder entirely unforgivable:


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