Tourism Korean, part 1

Visitors to Seoul are very likely to encounter at least one of Seodaemun, Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Even if their tour guide (human, printed or digital) doesn’t tell them, it’s probably possible to figure out that they are the original west great gate, south great gate and east great gate of Seoul. Seo, nam and dong, therefore, are west, south and east. Dae might be great or gate, and mun might be vice versa, but the head of any compound noun is more likely to be in the first or last position, and finding that Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace firmly points to mun as gate. 

These actually have (or had, in the case of Seodaemun) official names, which are 돈의문 (don-ui-mun), 숭례문 (sung-nye-mun) and 흥인지문 (heung-in-ji-mun) respectively (which are also rendered in hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), but tourists don’t have to worry about any of that). Seodaemun also refers to a gu (local government area), park and prison, Namdaemun to a market and Dongdaemun to a gu, market, former baseball stadium and design plaza (and I’m sure a lot else each). Bukdaemun (north great gate) (officially 숙정문 (suk-jeong-mun)) exists but is far less known, partly because it is perched in the mountains, a moderate hike from anywhere.

Continue reading

999th post – A tale of two cities

I have occasionally pondered the similarities and differences between these two cities (shown above as close as I can to the same scale). I think there are more differences than similarities. Both are the biggest city in their country, but Seoul comprehensively so and Sydney only just (and is projected to be overtaken by Melbourne sooner rather than later). Seoul is the capital of South Korea, but Sydney isn’t the capital of Australia, even though many people around the world think or assume it is. As a result, Sydney (and/or Melbourne) dominate economically and culturally, but not politically (at least at the national level; they dominate their respective states). 

Geographically, both sit between the ocean and mountains. Even though South Korea is overall more mountainous, Wentworth Falls (at the far left of the Sydney map) is higher in elevation than Bukhansan. It’s just that Bukhansan is located comparatively much closer to its city. (Also, Mount Kosciuszko (the highest mountain on mainland Australia) is higher than Hallasan, and Mawson Peak (the highest on an outlying territory) is (just) higher than Mount Baekdu.) Both are at similar latitudes (Seoul 37ºN and Sydney 33ºS), but Seoul’s weather is dominated by the Siberian high and East Asian monsoon, meaning very cold winters (with snow) and very wet summers (with occasional typhoons) while Sydney’s is more equable, very rarely getting super-cold or super-hot (at least towards the coast; my inland suburb is more variable, and one day a few years ago a suburb near here was the hottest place on the planet). 

Continue reading

Shellharbour and Victor Harbor

My wife and I spent a night in the coastal town of Shellharbour. Similar couples spent a similar night in a similar coastal town, Victor Harbor

Australian English overwhelmingly prefers –our spellings to –or (most style guides specify –our and Pages for Mac’s Australian English autocorrect changed Victor Harbor to Harbour), but usage has swung back and forth over the years. Around the time Victor Harbor was officially named, –or spellings were in favour, so that official spelling was given and has been retained; likewise with the Australian Labor Party. (For more about these spellings, see Wikipedia in general, about the Labor Party. Basically, the –or spellings reflect the Latin original and the –our spellings reflect French –eur.)

Note also that Shellharbour is now one word, while Victor Harbor remains two. I guess running four syllables together is just too clunky.

Mount Nam

I have posted twice before (and see also) about whether it is better to say or write, for example, Gyeongbokgung, Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace. We have more choices with mountains because we can put mount(ain) before or after the name: Namsan, Namsan Mountain, Nam Mountain, Mount Namsan. One possibility I didn’t suggest was Mount Nam, because I’d never encountered it, but recently I did, in a blog I can’t name because I’ve forgotten which of several I’ve been browsing recently it was. For some reason, Mount Nam looks and sounds wrong, but Mount Halla and Mount Seorak look and sound reasonable. It might be that Nam is monosyllabic, but nearby where I went to high school was Mount Brown. 

A movie review mentioned a tv series named Jirisan. Wikipedia’s page on the tv series is named Jirisan (TV series) but refers to Mount Jiri throughout, while its page on the mountain is named Jirisan and refers to Jirisan, except for two fleeting references to ‘Mt. Jiri’. But I shouldn’t (indeed can’t) expect consistency from Wikipedia. 

Ultimately, there’s no ideal solution. The simplest is to use Gyeongbokgung and Jirisan, but using Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jirisan Mountain is more helpful. In fact, the most helpful is “Gyeongbokgung, a palace near the centre of Seoul”, and “Jirisan, a mountain in the south of Korea”, but you wouldn’t want to do that every time. A lot depends on your intended listeners/readers.

States, provinces and territories

Completing a trilogy of geographical-related posts is a topic I’ve had on my mind since posting about Texas not being that big, four and half years ago: the largest country subdivisions in the world. These go by different names in different countries. The most common in English-speaking countries are state, province and territory. 

Drawing mostly on Wikipedia’s list of the largest country subdivisions by area, the top 10 are:

NameCapital (largest city)Area km2Comparison (world country, x Texas)Population (percentage of country’s total)Comparison (world country, USA city proper)
Sakha Republic (Yakutia), RussiaYakutsk3,083,523 India 4.4 964,330 (0.6%)Djibouti
Austin TX
State of Western Australia, AustraliaPerth2,645,615 Kazakhstan  3.8 2,615,794 (10%)Lithuania Chicago IL
Krasnoyarsk Krai, RussiaKrasnoyarsk2,339,700 Democratic Republic of the Congo 3.42,876,497 (2%)Albania Chicago IL
Greenland, DenmarkNuuk2,166,086 Saudi Arabia 3.155,877 (1%)American Samoa (Wikipedia’s list stops at 100,000, the last being Roanoke VA)
Territory of Nunavut, CanadaIqaluit2,038,722 Mexico 2.938,780 (0.1%)Monaco
(see above)
State of Queensland, AustraliaBrisbane1,851,856 Sudan 2.75,076,512 (20%)Costa Rica Chicago IL + Houston TX 
State of Alaska, USAJuneau (Anchorage)1,717,854 Iran 2.5737,438 (0.2%)Bhutan
Seattle WA
Xingjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China Ürümqi1,664,897 Iran 2.424,867,600 (1.77%)Australia
State of Amazonas, BrazilManaus1,570,745Mongolia 2.34,080,611 (1.9%)Moldova
Los Angeles CA
Province of Quebec, CanadaQuebec City (Montreal)1,542,056Mongolia, 2.28,484,965 (22%)Israel
New York NY
Continue reading


Some years ago (first guess, last century, more likely the 1980s than the 1990s) I heard a song Is ’e an Aussie, is ’e Lizzie? by the duo Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam (I seem to remember simply ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’). At the time I didn’t have access to the resources of the internet but I have recently found that they were the English songwriter/pianist/tenor Bentley Collingwood Hilliam and the New Zealand bass Malcolm McEachern. They performed light comic “with mild social commentary” and sentimental songs. (I also accidentally found the thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam, who presumably don’t.)

Is ’e an Aussie is apparently typical. (I recently included a link in a comment to a recent post, and my number one commenter of recent times, Batchman, said that it didn’t work in the USA. Try here or here or here, or search for ‘Is ’e an Aussie Flotsam Jetsam’.) It features rapid-fire and witty rhyming, almost all of it to do with Australia. In fact, in the first rhyme, Lizzie tells her girlfriend:

Mary-Anne I’ve met a man who says he’s an Austray-lee-an 

She says that he:

Throws a fond eye, talks of Bondi

But later we learn that:

He, being well-born, lived in Melbourne

Hang on …

Continue reading

여러 분 추석 잘 보내세요!

Chuseok isn’t a holiday in Australia, of course, so I spent the day working, listening to Korean music or semi-watching Korean hiking videos for most of the time. Youtube suggested two videos of old photos of Seoul, dating from 1884 and 1984 respectively. (A lot happened in between!)

The first is on the 대한여지도 Korean Geographic channel, and has photos taken by Percival Lowell. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube korean geographic seoul 1884 percival lowell’.

The second is the 복원왕 Restoration King channel, and has colourised photos. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube restoration king life in seoul 1984’.

The next video I watched was from 1979, and the Yeouido 63 Building was conspicuously absent (it was started in 1980). While I was watching it, I had the sudden thought that it would be interesting to compare then and now (if possible). The screenshot for the second video above should be relatively easy, but the screenshot for the first video is probably under an apartment building or department store.

I also remembered seeing a video at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of the view from Namsan, with the buildings risings up animatedly over time.

Trail mix tape

Several years ago I posted about the distance 10,000 miles, which occurs in several songs. I suggested that it’s the archetypal long distance because it is the furthest away (in nautical miles) one can travel on Earth. (Presumably it came into use after long-distance sailing became common.) I mentioned that A space oddity has the distance 100,000 miles, which is less than half-way to the moon.

This morning a colleague mentioned that today is Trail Mix Day. I said in a group email that I was going to make a selection of songs and call it a trail mix tape (not an original joke), and suggested These boots are made for walking, Over hill, over dale, Climb every mountain, I’m gonna be (500 miles), 500 miles away from home and 10,000 miles. I pondered what longer distances are mentioned in songs. After I sent that email, I also thought about Fly me to the moon and The final countdown (“We’re heading for Venus”). Then a colleague replied with 2000 light years from home, which I topped with Across the universe, Stairway to heaven and Highway to hell (though those don’t mention actual distances). 

Apropos the last two, there are several cartoons with two men wearing a Led Zeppelin and AC/DC t-shirt respectively. One version has the Led Zep fan saying “We split ways here”.


Today is 15 years since I went to Korea the first time. We were planning to travel there last year, probably for Chuseok, before continuing to Europe, but that got knocked on the head. We hope to travel as soon as we can, but that is obviously not going to be soon.

I have been watching a lot a hiking videos and reading travel websites and blogs. My default maps is Google. Although its coverage is limited, it gives me most of the information I need. I have also investigated Naver Maps. Their maps and satellite are better than Google’s, but they have no street view, at least that I’ve been able to find. (Their default language is Korean, not surprisingly. There may be a way to switch that to English.) A few days ago I read a blog which mentioned Kakao Maps, which has better maps and satellite and more extensive street view than Google. (And is also in Korean, but the blogger said there’s a way to switch languages.)

These three maps show the area including Deoksugung Palace (lower left), Seoul City Hall, Cheonggyecheon and Jongno Tower (upper right):

Continue reading

“Swimming dancing to music”

Nine years ago I used the then-current London Olympics to talk about the Olympic Games, Olympic sports in particular and other sports in general, especially those popular in the students’ countries or which they played, which also gave a lot of opportunities for asking questions with who, what, where, when, how, how much, how many, how many times, how long and why. At the time, I had two students from Greece in my class, who actually lived within sight of Mount Olympus. One of them especially said “Oooh, is Greek word” any time we encountered a Greek word, which was obviously a lot during this class. The other one thought very carefully and said “swimming dancing to music” as an Olympic sport. With a little bit of knowledge of Greek I was able to guide him towards swimming with (σύν, sún, syn-) music and in time (χρόνος, khrónos, chron-) to it.

“Swimming dancing to music” is actually a very good attempt to communicate when he didn’t know the actual word.