Casting the first stone

The South Korean women’s curling team has done unexpectedly well, and will compete in the final tonight against Sweden. Australia’s affiliated broadcaster didn’t show last night’s semi-final against Japan in its entirety, or even give updates during the men’s ice hockey semi-final, so my wife and I downloaded the tv station’s app and watched on her mobile phone. The game finished after 1 am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (11 pm Korean time), so I went downstairs to get a drink of water. I briefly posted on Facebook “Oh, the excitement. Last throw (?terminology) win to Korea.” “Throw” just didn’t look right, but I couldn’t think of any other word. Given that the projectile is called a stone, maybe they could use “cast”. Before the game starts, the two teams need to ascertain who will cast the first stone – the player without sin, presumably. 

This morning, I set out to find the terminology. Wikipedia doesn’t help, using terminology inconsistently. I found the webpage of the World Curling Federation, which uses deliver(y) throughout, so I could/should have written “last delivery win to Korea”, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic. (Cricket also uses the term delivery, alongside ball: “last delivery win to Australia” or (probably more likely) “last ball win to Australia”.

The Korean team is also notable for all having the surname Kim (including the reserve and the coach (there is also an American/Canadian looking man coach [PPPS the Korean woman is the team’s coach and the Canadian man is the national coach].). Two of them are sisters, and all of them are from the same small town in a remote part of Korea otherwise known for growing garlic. The local authorities just decided to allocate funds to build a curling facility. The Korean team started playing together while at high school. Wikipedia reports that the Uiseong Kim clan is descended from the last prince of Silla (the ruling dynasty from c 57 BC to 935), but that doesnt necessarily mean that these players belong to that clan, or are related (apart from the sisters). (The Japanese team had two players with the same surname, who I assume are sisters.)

In a serious case of “all these Asians look the same to me”, I didn’t realise that the players were taking turns to deliver the stones, which I understood was the procedure from my previous limited exposure to curling (like, it’s not a big thing in Australia). Every time a name was shown at the bottom of the screen, it was the same name, so maybe the broadcaster couldn’t tell the difference either. (Actually, I noticed that “she” was wearing glasses half the time and not wearing them the other half. Two of the players wear similar glasses and the other two don’t.) I didn’t notice the Japanese player’s names at the bottom of the screen at all. My wife said she knew the players were taking turns.

Nothing I have heard or read has mentioned the parallel to the South Korean women’s handball team at the 2004 summer olympic games, in which an unheralded team performed unexpectedly well and fell just short in a tie-breaker in the final (after they had tied with the same team in the preliminary rounds). They had a movie made about them. Maybe the Garlic Girls will as well.

So, tomorrow morning (Korean time), please cheer for South Korea, unless you are Swedish. South Korea defeated Sweden in the preliminary rounds, but that is no guarantee, because they lost to Japan in the preliminaries but defeated them in the semi-final.

PS I knew there was a specifically language angle. The players spend a lot of the time shouting to (or at) each other over the length of the sheet (the sport is sometimes called The Roaring Game, and also in earnest discussion at the end of every delivery and end (a set of eight deliveries for each team). My thought was whether any of the Koreans speak (or understand) Japanese or vice versa. I mentioned this to my wife and she said that the Korean commentator said that one of the Japanese players does speak (or understand) some Korean, but that the Korean team members speak a non-standard variety of Korean (approximately the equivalent of deep-South USA). [PPS In the final, I suspect very few Koreans speak (or understand) Swedish or vice versa. On the other hand, at top international level, tactics must be pretty much standard, and the captains often point to a stone and very obviously say ‘knock it this way’. PPPPS I guess a lot of the standard terminology is English, because of the Scottish origin and Canadian dominance, plus it wouldn’t take too long on the circuit to learn yes, no, start/go, stop, fast, slow, left, right in about six languages or groups of related languages.]

The captain Kim Eun-jung has become famous for being able to shout 영미 (yeong-mi) (the name of one of the players) in sixteen different inflections to mean sixteen different things, all of which Yeong-mi seems to understand. (She’s probably thinking “Gosh, I wish she’d stop shouting at me”.)

Search and you will find reports, tributes and parodies.

To start: Australia’s ABC News.


2 thoughts on “Casting the first stone

  1. I will happily cheer for South Korea!
    I was interested to learn that the place from which the Kims hail is famous for garlic. There is a town in California which is also famous for garlic. Gilroy. There is a yearly Garlic Festival. You can get garlic flavored everything there including garlic ice cream. I have never tried that. It sounds awful.


    • When my parents went to Texas in 1986, they said that every town was “the fruit/vegetable/variety capital of Texas/the USA/the world”.

      I went to another Korean town famous for its garlic and for a semi-historical/semi-mythical trickster character who looked uncannily like the Australian prime minister of the time.


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