Monday, May 18, 2009

"Yes, we have no bananas" a phrase that would make perfect sense to a Korean. "Neh, panana upseoyo", at least, would: "Don't you have any bananas?" "Yes, we don't." One of the first things a foreign teacher learns is not to ask a negative question; you will always get "Yes, I don't" as the answer. That struck me as screwy, but I finally realized that it makes as much sense as "No, I don't".

Another thing that takes some getting used to is the numbers. Not only do they have Chinese numbers for buses, room numbers, phone numbers, and so on (il, i, sam, sa, o...) and Korean ones for counting (hana, dul, seht, neht, daseot...), but large numbers go in multiples of ten thousand: two hundred thousand, for example, is "i-ship-man", twenty ten-thousands, or, if you really want to break it down, two-times-ten ten-thousands. This struck me as screwier than Carrot Top on speed, but I finally realized that it's just as logical as going by thousands. Except... except... they still put the commas every three digits, in the Western style.

Oh, and the months have no names. There's just one-month, two-month... my birthday is ten-month, two-times-ten six-day.

On the way home tonight, I cut through the huge neighborhood park behind E-Mart. It has a quarter-mile circular dirt path that's very popular for exercisers when the weather cools a bit. As I moseyed counter-clockwise around the path, there were literally a hundred or more Koreans striding manfully (and womanfully and childfully) around the path, singly, in pairs, and in groups, every one of them apparently intent on walking for fitness, and every single one, of course, going in the opposite direction from mine.

I bet the Korean word probably means counter-counter-clockwise.

1 comment:

PeterBugnet said...

Japanese numbers, having the same root, work the same way. even the ten thousand counter is the same - man. thousand is sen and hundred is hyaku. 10 is jyu. i don't know if there is one higher than 10,000.