MeToo, 미투, 나도

A few days ago, my wife mentioned the #MeToo movement. Not surprisingly, stories are emerging in the Korean entertainment industry. I asked her whether Korean women and news media use MeToo or 미투 (mi-tu, that is, transliterating the English into hangeul) or 나도 (na-do, that is, translating the English into Korean). Because her linguistic meta-language in English is limited and mine in Korean is non-existent, I don’t think she fully understood my question and I know I didn’t fully understand her answer.

She found an instance of 미투 캠페인 (mi-too kaem-pe-in) and asked me whether it was a campaign or a movement (which I’ll get back to in a moment). Otherwise, I have found online references to 미투 and 나도, and to 캠페인 and 운동 (un-dong). English Wikipedia’s page lists 나도당했다 (na-do dang-haet-da) and Korean Wikipedia’s page is titled 미투 운동. 운동 is usually translated ‘exercise’, but can also mean movement, motion, campaign, locomotion, effort, manoeuvre/maneuver (Google Translate). 당했다 is the past tense of suffer, so the Korean might be translated ‘I too suffered’. (Different dictionaries and translators give wildly different translations, which I won’t list. Suffer seems to be the best one. It hasn’t been in any of my Korean textbooks yet.) Currently, 미투 운동 gets about 3 millions results and 나도당했다 about 4 million.

So is it a campaign or a movement? Certainly in English, it is called a movement. To me, a campaign is more organised. Dictionary.com defines a movement as ‘a series of actions or activities intended or tending toward a particular end’ and a campaign as ‘a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose’.

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Automated translation fail

Automated translations of Facebook posts are meant to help, but one I’ve just read was inaccurate or incoherent or both. Among other things, it translated 아들아! (a-deul-a), a standard vocative which might be translated as ‘hey, son!’) as ‘You son of a bitch!’. There are multiple references to “father” and “son”, but it from the English translation it is impossible to tell whether the writer is talking about his father and son, himself and his father (referring to himself as “son”), himself and his son (referring to himself as “father”) or someone else’s father and son etc. There was just enough coherence to know that he was not talking about fathers and sons in general, or about God the Father and God the Son, which would otherwise be two more possibilities.

(For the record, “You son of a bitch!” in Korean is 너 개자식! (neo gae-ja-sik). I am not only relying on a translator for that; I did ask a native speaker (not by saying it to them directly!). Don’t rely on translation tools for insults.)

Ugly congratulations

Yesterday my wife posted birthday greetings in English on Facebook. One of her friends wrote something in Korean which Facebook automatically translated as ‘Ugly [smiley face]’. ‘Congratulations’ in Korean is 축하해요 (chuk-ha-hae-yo) normally and 축하합니다 (chuk-ha-ham-ni-da) formally. The verb ‘[subject] am/is/are ugly’ is 추해요. An unaspirated stop like ㄱ followed by a ㅎ is always pronounced as the corresponding aspirated stop, in this case ㅋ, so 축하해요 is pronounced 추카해요, which is what the friend actually wrote. Facebook’s translator (and Google Translate when I experimented) interpreted 추 as the verb stem of ‘ugly’ and ignored the 카, which is meaningless if 추 is interpreted as ‘ugly’. It also ignored the verb conjugation.

PS I asked my wife about this. She said that people sometimes write 추카해요 in text messages or social media posts, but 축하해요 is definitely the correct spelling, and people would never write 추카해요 in any formal context.