The Sanchon Hunjang
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And there was Illuminati-o-n

Ok, so after reading that other Dan Brown novel--you know, the one with the tighter plot line--the Sanchon Hunjang became aware that the Illuminati are still alive and well and running everything from behind the scenes some 2oo years after they were founded. Not only are they behind everything, but they enjoy flaunting their mastery of all by using a funky kind of writing that can be read the same forward or backward. An "ambigram," rather like the very title of that very same book, on its very own cover:

Of course if one of these ambigrams can be custom made to fit the cover of a novel, maybe it doesn't belong to the realms of high art after all...

Still, the only thing ambiguous about ambigrams is which direction is "正 proper." But since they are identical in either direction, it's kind of a moot question.

The other day, the Sanchon Hunjang was musing on some individual graphs that were ambiguous in their own right. Which is to say that any of them could theoretically, in isolation at least, leave you guessing what the original language was supposed to be. Kinda like the Chinese "丫 yā(아)" and the English "Y."

Well that was before I came across the sign. The sign where someone has put together a very interesting ambiguous graph that (1) actually says something, and (2) is ambiguous about what language it is supposed to be read in and even (3) manages to say the same thing in two different scripts at the same time.

Behold a true ambigram...or "bi-language-gram"...or...well let's just get onto the beholding part:

I am impressed. Doubly so since it says the same thing in 한자 and 한글. Simultaneously, no less. That strikes me as quite a feat. Not that advertising logos rank any higher in level of fine art than novel covers, but still, kudos to the graphic artist!

Say...wait just a second here. The word that they have selected to represent in such a mystical fashion: 빛/光. That refers to illumination, right? "Illumination"..."Illuminati"...hmmmm...ambigrams...hmmmmmmmmmmmm...could this be just a coincidence? I hardly think so... *^^*



What languagie is that?

呂657? As in "여657"? What is that?

OH I get it. You mean *8*657. As in your licence plate number.

But why write your 8 so it looks so much like "呂"? Surely there are enough funny graphs out there that are ambiguous about which language they belong to, like 己 and 口 and 大 and 从 and all those Japanese characters ぇ, し, そ, て, コ, ス, ト, フ, マ, ュ, ョ, ラ, ロ, and ヲ. And this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all the Japanese glyphs that look like Chinese (which maybe shouldn't be too strange when we consider that the Japanese script was devised as a simplified version of Chinese script, kinda like 구결).

So why would anyone want to push this envelope any further?



On hidden tails

There is some argument about the period when the Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海經 (English version) was written.

At any rate, this book contains a wealth of information on old China's geography, flora and fauna, much of it fanciful. In the section on the mountains of the south, we find "有獸焉 , 其狀如狐而九尾, 其音如嬰兒, 能食人, 食者不蠱." With glosses, that is: "有 there is 獸 a wild animal 焉 therein, 其 its 狀 appearance 如 is like 狐 a fox 而 but 九尾 [it is] nine-tailed, 其 its 音 sound 如 is like 嬰兒 a newborn baby, 能 it is able to 食 eat 人 people, 食者 those who eat [it] 不 do not 蠱 [suffer from the effects of] malevolent forces."

Yep, it's the locus classicus for the fabled nine-tailed fox 구미호 九尾狐, those creatures that are able to transform themselves into beautiful maidens in order to seduce men and take away their vital energy, thereby supplementing the fox's own yin energy (foxes are active at night, thus thought heavy on the yin side and they can transform into that other creature with yin powers: a woman) by absorbing and thus taking away the yang essence of the male "she" seduces, thereby lengthening her own existence. Fox fairies are popular in Chinese and Korean folklore as clever tricksters.

Like vampires, the specific powers and weaknesses of nine-tailed foxes, and fox-fairies in general, depend somewhat on who is telling the story. And between the collections of supernatural stories collected in northeast Asia over the centuries, there has been no shortage of tellers. Some say that a fox that lives for a thousand years turns into a nine-tailed fox. Some say it sprouts a new tail for every hundred years that it lives. Sometimes it has to eat the hearts of men, other times absorbing (and thus robbing them of their) "essence" through sex or sex-like acts is enough. The Asian folklore idea that foxes wed on days when the sun is shining and rain falls at the same time is famously depicted in Kurosawa's movie Dreams. The storytelling continues into the present with such famous modern 구미호 as 고소영

and 김태희 and other schlock that nobody should be forced to sit through. And that's just in Korea! I won't even get into all the Pu Songling inspired stuff produced in China, let alone the stuff in video games or anime.

There are, of course, critters other than nine-tailed foxes that go around with their tails hidden.

Look at the first word in that 시조 by the 순수한 기생 홍랑. It's got one of those now-you-see-it-now-you-don't tails:

With modernized Korean spelling and a few touch-ups to eliminate archaisms, it looks like this:

멧버들 가려 꺾어 보내노라, 임에게 I pick out, break off and send a mountain willow to my beloved,
주무시는 窓밖에 심어두고 보소서 And pray you plant it outside the window where you sleep--
밤비에 새잎 나거든 나인줄 여기소서 When new leaves sprout in the spring rain, please think of them as me.

뫼 is the original spelling for the local word for mountain now spelled as "메," and there is no word 멧버들, but you can still find this mountainous morpheme, complete with 사이시옷 tail the word 멧돼지.

Yep, Korean has, at least since middle-Korean was spoken during the time of Sejong the Great, always had a fun way of making compound nouns by inserting a ㅅ between the words in question to mark the first one as a modifier of the second. Funny thing is that this ㅅ was never prounounced for the sound value /s/. It has always been pronounced by "tensifying" the initial sound following. So "윗이" comes out sounding like /윈니/ not */위시/.

If you are writing in Korean, you can always insert a 시옷받침 at the end of the first word, but when you are writing in Chinese you can't invent a new graph with a ㅅ appended every time you want to use one. That's why, at least in middle-Korean, we get floating 사이시옷 and indeed, it's this aspect that probably gave rise to the "사이" part of the name.

But in modern Korean, it's considered an anathema to have loose consonants running around. So, while the 시옷 would be visible if it were written in 한글, in mixed script the words are just concatinated. No ㅅ. ^^

You can see this in the modern version:

동짓달 기나긴 밤을 한허리를 베어 내어 To cut the waist from this long deep winter month night
춘풍 이불 아래 서리서리 넣었다가 And place it in coils under the spring-wind[-warm] blanket
어룬 임 오신 날 밤이어든 굽이굽이 펴리라 That, at night on the day that my partner beloved comes, I will spread it with meandering turns

Of course if "동짓달" is written in modern mixed script, it becomes a de-시옷'ized "冬至달" (still pronounced /동짓달/ but not spelled that way).

There's also a distinctly 사이시옷 sounding phenomenon in many places where two Chinese morphemes come together. Generally these are not officially recognized as this phenomenon--and thus written with a 사이시옷 (even when writing in 한글)--but it sure sounds awfully similar. I mean words like 대구 (對句), 사건, 대가, 성과, 등등등. The word 효과 is offically pronounced /효과/, as anyone can confirm by listening to well-trained broadcasting announcers, but listen to the man in the street and you will, likely as not, hear the officially unaccepted /효꽈/.

That's a pretty well hidden tail. But you can see hints.

There's another even sneakier one out there, though. The Sanchon Hunjang likes to call these guys 사이히읗, but as far as I know, nobody else has ever used that name. Listen carefully to what happens at the morpheme boundary when the bound-morpheme 수- (male) comes in contact with free morphemes.

수 + 개 => 수캐
수 + 것 => 수컷
수 + 닭 => 수탉
수 + 돼지 => 수퇘지

A definite ㅎ hiding in there, no?

It's not only 수- that has this hidden tail effect. The counterpart 암- (female) does the exact same thing. Not only these sex-indicators, 안- (inside) also does the same. Behold: 안팎. 머리 also shows it's tail when combined with -가락. And on and on and on.

There are indeed many strange creatures that go about in the moonlight with their tails hidden to trick the unwary. Be careful...



Done yet?

Ask a random person if she is finished. With whatever. It doesn't matter. Assuming that she hasn't, nearly 1o times out of 1o she'll say "아직..."

Of course this is shorthand for "아직 다 못했는데."

You can check by just asking about something she was supposed to have done. Like that report.

"그 보고서는 어떻게 됐어?"
"아직 다 못 했는데..."

So the 아직 clearly comes before the 다, which of course comes before the verbal auxiliary 못 all followed by the verb 하다.

You can also see it when that same lady gets upset by something you are saying when she thinks you've gone to far and she hits you with a sharp "너 말 다 했어?" But you also meant to go on about her mother. So you shoot back, "다 못 했어! 왜?"

Lessee, so that's 다 before the auxiliary 못 which is before the verb. Check.

All of this 정리 is hard work, no? Now that that's all settled, it must be time to relax.

Care to listen to some music? Do you like 장혜진? Says here that she was born in '68. That must have been a good year. 육팔생 원숭이띠구나. 연예인들이 말하는 생년월일을 믿어도 되는지 모르지만.

By any chance, have you listened to her fifth album, Souvenir? Track 1 "이별 후유증"... Yes parting is surely a sad thing that leaves one feeling empty for a while. Track 2 is "사랑이란 그 이름 하나만으로." Sounds like a very idealistic view of love and life. Something I'd expect from someone in their early- to mid-twenties. Surely not from an artist who is pushing forty. I'm sure it's got a great melody, though. Track 3 says it's called "힘겨운 사랑." Ms. Jang sure seems to be focusing a lot on 사랑 here... Continuing right along in the same vein, track 4 is "My Love." 역시. Any bets on the topic of track 5? ^^ Yep. Welcome back to 사랑. It's called "못다한 사랑."

못.다.한.사.랑. That's what it says. But this goes against the ordering rule we established above. The 못난 "못" and the "다" seem to have done a little dosie-do on us here.

It turns out that you can say the standard 다 못 한 in most situations, but some situations dictate an inverted 못다한. So we get "못다한 사랑," "못다한 얘기"... But these critters are a lot like Ms. Jang: all fixated on love and longing.

After quizzing down a whole herd of native informants, most of whom just said "they're the same thing, aren't they," the Sanchon Hunjang has become enlightened. In strict meaning 못 다 한 and 다 못 한 are identical, but they differ slightly in nuance, and thus in usage. The standard is 다 못 했다, as discussed above.

But sometimes the speaker wants to show a bit of lingering attachment, and this is when he will say "못다한," especially about something that inspires reluctance to give it up. Like love. Like when your man says he's had enough and he's leaving whether you like it or not. Especially if you are the kind of woman who has a hard time letting go. Then you can spend days, weeks and months brooding over your 못다한 사랑 and all of the 못다한 얘기 that you meant to say to him.

And after brooding like that for several months, maybe you'll be ready to write a whole ream of new songs for Ms. Jang!



Are you allowed to say that?

So Korean, along with other Asian languages, has specific words that are used to describe the actions or aspects of others, 진지, 연세, 존함 etc., etc. Frequently translated "honored something or other." This includes words like 약주 that actually have other dictionary definitions, but are used in practice as uplifted versions of ordinary nouns.

It goes without saying that one does not use these to describe one's own actions. Because that would belie poor breeding. Or maybe a poor attempt at comedy. A step down from using the royal first-person pronoun to refer to oneself.

But society is changing. And there are indications that some of the more esoteric examples of honored speech are beginning to fray. For example, many Koreans cannot correctly use the word 여쭙다/여쭈다 any more (in the old days, that was "엳다" ^^). Especially younger Koreans. They can remember that it means "to ask" and is an honored form. So they use it as "to ask/inform a superior" as well as "a superior asks." As evidence of this tattering of the hierarchical fabric, the Sanchon Hunjang submits a helpful tutorial aimed at native speakers on how to properly use these words.

You can also judge the lack of proper Confusion ^^ education that the young 'uns have been given by how they react in a situation with two social superiors and themselves. Say there's granddad and dad. Both demand respect and honored speech. But what about when you are talking to granddad about dad? Are you supposed to say, A: "아버지도 할아버지 존경한다고 하십니다," or should it be, B: "아버지도 할아버지 존경한다고 합니다"? Listen closely, especially in real life situations when the speaker is slightly out of her comfort zone because of the interaction with a social superior, and you'll hear A more often than not. Even from middle aged speakers who should know better.

Lastly, there's a funny construction of which the Sanchon Hunjang is just not sure what to make. As everyone knows, the ~시 infix makes ordinary verbs (and adjectival verbs) into wonderful gifts fit only to bestow upon honored others. And ~ㅂ시다 indicates a proposition for action that the speaker and company will all participate in together. So what does it mean when the speaker says something like, "자 회의를 마치십시다," with the "honored other" ~시 thing combined with the self-inclusive ~ㅂ시다 thing. It sounds like it shouldn't be possible. I can't vouch for whether it's proper textbook Korean or not, but it sure can be heard in abundance out in the wild.

Sure, language changes. Culture changes. Society changes. The Sanchon Hunjang isn't going to argue that we should all stick to the proscriptive approach. Just that it's interesting to watch the hints of change unfolding before your very ears.


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