Mud, mud, glorious mud

On Monday, the topic in the textbook was what it called ‘big events’, including  festivals, parades, protests, sporting matches and concerts. I mentioned the Boryeong Mud Festival in Korea, which I attended in July 2007. After class I decided to find a video on Youtube to show them. I was also looking for a way to lead into the week’s big grammar point of relative clauses, which I thought the textbook introduced rather clumsily. At home I found this video, and while watching and listening through I realised that it was full of relative clauses. I don’t think I caught them all just by listening the first time at home, or the second time in class the next day, but later I transcribed the first four and a half minutes.

Here are the relevant parts:

(1) The greatest festival in the world, where global citizens are brought together by mud …
(2) The Boryeong Mud Festival [BMF], which is the greatest summer festival, began last July 15 [2006].
(3) To date, 7.8 million tourists have participated in the BMF, which became famous with 310,000 participants in its first year.
(4) … this is Daecheon Beach [DB], which resembles a mud kingdom.
(5) DB is visited by tourists from Korea and abroad, who come to enjoy the BMF.
(6) In front of the mud slide that measures three storeys high and 40 metres long, many people are waiting for their turn.
(7) Who cares about the mess?
(8) There’s even a mud wrestling contest prepared for all those who don’t know what to do with all their strength.
(9) It’s too bad for those who didn’t catch the ball, but everyone watching the game is having fun together …

(1)-(5) include non-defining (non-restrictive, supplementary) relative clauses, set off by commas in writing and a slight pause or change in pitch or volume in speaking. In each case what comes before (and in some cases after) is self-sufficient and the relative clause provides extra information, which can also be styled as a separate sentence. In each case, there is a word in the second sentence corresponding to the relative pronoun in the original sentence:
(1) The greatest festival in the world. Here, global citizens are brought together by mud …
(2) The Boryeong Mud Festival began last July 15 [2006]. It is the greatest summer festival.
(3) To date, 7.8 million tourists have participated in the BMF. It became famous with 310,000 participants in its first year.
(4) … this is Daecheon Beach. It resembles a mud kingdom.
(5) DB is visited by tourists from Korea and abroad. They come to enjoy the BMF.

While short sentences are always possible, too many of them in a row is unnatural. In (5), the non-defining relative pronoun for people is ‘who’. In (1), the pronoun is ‘where’, and in (2)-(4) it is ‘which’. (2)-(4) introduce extra information about the festival and the beach, talking about them as we would  talk about a thing. (1) introduces extra information about the people in this place.

(8) and (9) are defining (restrictive, integrated) relative clauses. In each case what comes before is open-ended; we need more information to understand who is being talked about:
(8) There’s even a mud wrestling contest prepared for all those … (all those what? who?)  … all those [people] who don’t know what to do with all their strength. (oh, now I understand!)
(9) It’s too bad for those (those what? who?) those [people] who didn’t catch the ball (oh, right).

(6) illustrates a major complication about relative clauses. It is always possible to use ‘that’ in defining relative clauses referring to things, many people use it by habit or by choice, and some go so far as to say that only ‘that’ can be used and that ‘which’ is incorrect:
(6) In front of the mud slide that measures three storeys high and 40 metres long (v ‘the mud slide which measures …).

My own preference in non-restrictive clauses is ‘which’, but that’s just me. Other writers about English (eg, Geoffrey Pullum and Stan Carey) have thoroughly discussed the history and current usage of this construction and the varying advice about it, so I won’t comment at length.

(7) is not a relative clause; it just happens to use the same word (who) as a interrogative pronoun, to ask a rhetorical question. In the same way, ‘who’ replaces a word in the implied answer: ‘No-one cares about the mess!’.

There’s more grammar arising from the video, but I’ll leave it there.

A few comments about the festival and the video. Daecheon Beach is a long and quite frankly not very interesting beach on the west coast (a photo of the beach appears on the Boryeong page, below). The town stretches along the foreshore and back a few blocks, and is mainly filled with restaurants and hotels of varying quality, but also a spa/massage/mud treatment centre (7.34). (We didn’t have specialised treatment; we just daubed ourselves with the free mud.) Boryeong is the comparatively bigger town (and local government centre) located a few kilometres inland. As a marketing exercise, the mud festival has been spectacularly successful. The text for the video was almost certainly written by a Korean; I can’t imagine a native speaker writing ‘As they enjoy the speed and the thrill, their stress flies into the air’ (3.12) and I’m surprised that the native English speaking voice-over artist agreed to say it. The sub-titler shows aspects of Konglish: ‘I want to come often for a mud pack and have fun’ (6.53) (borderline*) and ‘it’s very fun’ (6.56) (definitely non-standard).

The year we were there (the year after this video was made; unfortunately, the festival’s Facebook page does not have photos for 2007), we saw all of the permanent fixtures (eg monuments (0.29), sculptures (8.05 – see my photo below, 8.09), and some of the activities. I went on the obstacle course at 2.33, but not on the giant slide at 2.48 (I’m not sure why; maybe the length of the queue). We saw the mud bath at 1.39, the wrestling at 3.24 and the mud prison at 4.30, but not the special activities, most of which, eg the marathon and the yachts, are only on at specified times. We saw a concert but not a parade. The mascots (0.39 and throughout) are the same and I even recognise some of the people (eg the old man at 7.44).

Each year, there is a photography competition. I submitted one of my photos and it was selected for the commemorative book and for display at the next year’s festival.

Mud is a surprisingly good sunscreen, but I had red blotches where I hadn’t applied it, or it was too thinly spread.

* It is possible to analyse this as ‘I want to (come often for a mud pack) and (have fun)’, but it is more likely to be ‘I want to come often (for a mud pack) and ([to] have fun’.

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