I previously mentioned the Youtube channel It’s okay to be smart by Joe Hanson, which presents bite-sized chunks of general science, specifically his catch-phrase “Stay curious”. Another catch-phrase is “[Name/pronoun] did a science”.

In the movie The Martian (but not the novel, which I recently bought, partly to research this), astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars after his crewmates think that was killed during an emergency evacuation. He survives (obviously), then records a video outlining what he must do to survive, partly to clarify his own thoughts and partly for any future mission which might find him (dead). He concludes: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m faced with only one option: I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”.

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No hugging, no kissing

My opportunities to watch movies online are limited by time, interest and what I can find for free. I have recently watched and blogged about 신부수업 Love so divine (Wikipedia, my blog), 아이엔지 …ing (review, my blog) and 순정만화 Hello schoolgirl (Wikipedia, my blog), and I have just finished watching 엽기적인 그녀 My sassy girl (which I have mentioned but had not watched). The video wasn’t subtitled, so I missed a lot, instead relying on synopses, reviews and commentaries online. Linguistically, the point of interest is that her name is never given; he, her parents and his aunt don’t ever address her by name, despite opportunities to do so.

The other thing I noticed in all four movies was the lack of romantic physical contact – no (or very little) hugging, no (or very little) kissing. I don’t know if this is a general thing in Korean movies. Four is hardly a representative sample. There are reasons in-story – the man in Love so divine is a trainee priest and the women in …ing and Hello schoolgirl and are (final year) high school students (and the men are older) (the two in the former get as far as holding hands but the two in latter don’t even do that, and older beta couple get half a kiss), but the two in My sassy girl are by any definition adults. The question isn’t will they or won’t they, it’s how much and when will they?

But it’s not just those four movies. Others I have seen are 사랑 A love (physically close but kept apart by circumstances), 괴물 The host (a family fighting a mutated monster) and 기생충 Parasite (some, but age and questionable consent).

I don’t know if this is a general trend in Korean movies. I obviously need need more examples one way or the other.

(See TV Tropes’ page on No hugging, no kissing which doesn’t mention Korean movies, and, conversely, The big damn kiss.)

PS I also recently watched 소녀X소녀 Girl x girl, in which their was no romantic contact, just people riding motorscooters together and a lot of low- to medium-level violence. I imagined a very different ending, because further down the search results was ‘Top 10 Korean lesbian movies’ (I’m surprised that there’s that many). I also many years ago watched 웰컴 투 동막골 Welcome to Dongmakgol (note that the Korean title is simply a transliteration of the English), which features two opposing groups of soldiers in a small village, with the only main female character a somewhat simple-minded mid-teen) and 왕의 남자 The king and the clown, in which there’s some contact (but I can’t remember quite how much) between the Joseon-period men.

PPS I have thought of two more movies. The one I’ll mention is 버닝 Burning in which two of the lead characters have rather perfunctory sex together.

Take a photo for me

A document contained a sentence by an applicant similar to:

The police searched my office and took a photo for me with [another person].

The context made it clear that they took a photo of him. Take a photo of me has at least two meanings, but take a photo for me probably has only one (the second is possibly possible, but I can’t think of a context in which it would be a reasonable interpretation).

In the movie Airplane!/Flying High! a group of reporters attends the airport’s control tower (looking very un-1979). After asking the flight controller some questions, the chief reporters says to his colleagues, “Okay, boys, let’s get some pictures”. They then physically remove some framed photos from the wall. Get some pictures has two meanings in that context, but I’m trying to think of whether it would in my original sentence: The police got some pictures of me. 

Hello camera

At some time during my first stay in Korea, I watched the movie 순정만화 (sun-jeong man-hwa, pure/romantic comic) rendered in English as Hello schoolgirl (Wikipedia, trailer with English subtitles, full movie with English subtitles). 

I recently posted about the 2003 movie 아이엔지 (a-i-en-ji, …ing, as in the English present participle), in which the high school girl’s mother gives her a mobile phone and she exclaims that she can take pictures, too. In this 2008 movie, the high school girl has a phone already, one of the first things we see her do is take a selfie, and she and the young man are texting and sending photos very soon after. Even without knowing it was from 2008, the slide phones would date it to a year or two. 

In fact, her aim is to own a film camera (필름 카메라), which can’t have been very common by then (I took a small and medium film camera with me in 2006, lost the small one very soon after, bought a digital one and never used the medium one again). While researching for this post, though, I found that film cameras are enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity, if only toy/disposable cameras available in vending machines. 

I’m posting this soon after lunar new year. Part of the plot is driven by the fact that the young man is 12 years older than the high school girl. He comments that they share the same sign, but nothing is said about whether that’s a good or bad thing.


At some time during my first stay in Korea, I made a Korean name for myself, 음대호 (eum dae-ho), but I rarely use it. At some time during my second stay in Korea, I became aware of the Korean movie Tiger (trailer, wikipedia), but I didn’t watch it then and haven’t since. One of my textbooks had the word for tiger, 호랑이 (ho-rang-i/ho-lang-i), so I assumed that’s what the title was in Korean, but I have recently been reading a lot about Korean movies and discovered that it’s actually 대호 (dae-ho), from 대, great and the first syllable of 호랑이.

Today is the Lunar New Year, which begins the year of the tiger in the zodiacs of China and nearby countries including Korea. But I’m not a tiger. It would have neat if I was, given that I made the name for other reasons. 여라 분 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

A blog post about a Korean movie with a very long title

I have posted before about the ways in which the titles of Korean movies are rendered in English: either the Korean name is retained (Silmido), or the English title is an exact or approximate translation of the Korean (Parasite), or the English title is more or less completely different (The host), or the Korean title is itself a transliteration of English (Oldboy). 

I recently discovered the website, which I first assumed was an official site, but which turned out to be the private site of Darcy Paquet, now best known for his collaboration with director Bong Joon-Ho on the English subtitles for Parasite, assisted by a team of volunteer reviewers. The site gives the title of each movie in Korean and English, but otherwise refers to each by its English title. With some knowledge of Korean, the strategies I listed in the first paragraph can be seen. Sometimes the reviewer discusses the Korean title when it sheds some light on the meaning of the movie. 

The champion in the ‘more different’ category is surely the 2004 movie 어디선가 누군가에 무슨일이 생기면 틀림없이 나타난다 홍반장 (eo-di-seon-ga nu-gun-ga-e mu-seun-il-i saeng-ki-myeon teul-rim-eob-shi na-ta-nan-da hong ban-jang), which is rendered in English as Mr Handy, or Mr Hong, or Mr Handy, Mr Hong, but which translates literally as If something happens to somebody somewhere, he always shows up, Chief Hong. This was the basis for the 2021 tv series Hometown Cha-cha-cha, which I mentioned here (in the PS at the end). ban-jang by itself usually translates as class monitor or class president at a school. Calling him Chief Hong makes it sound like he is the chief of police. Three major translation tools don’t even bother with the last word(s), Google giving If something happens to someone somewhere, it will definitely show up, Bing If something happens to someone anywhere, it will surely appear and Papago If something happens to someone, he will definitely appear

“You may now kiss the priest”

All of the languages I know anything about, and probably all languages ever, have words that mean two or more completely different things, with greater or lesser chance of confusion depending on whether two meanings are likely to be used in the same context.

The Korean word 신부 (shin-bu) means priest and bride, which are very likely to be used in the same context. A Korean Anglican priest friend of mine sometimes posts information about seminars on his Facebook book page, and Facebook’s autotranslator usually renders the keynote speaker as eg Hong Gil-dong Bride rather than Hong Gil-dong Priest. (“You may now kiss the 신부” wasn’t in our wedding service; in fact it’s not officially in any church wedding service I know anything about.)

I have just stumbled across (I have forgotten exactly how) the 2004 Korean movie 신부수업 (shin-bu su-oeb), which is either ‘the priest’s lesson’ or ‘the bride’s lesson’ (or possibly deliberately both). Probably to avoid spoiling the ambiguity, the movie is titled Love, so divine in English (with a nod to the hymn When I survey the wondrous cross). Youtube has the complete movie, which is not subtitled in English, which I’m probably going to get sucked into watching anyway, in the name of linguistic research. (Trailer half-way down this page.)

At the beginning there is neither a priest nor a bride; he is a Roman Catholic seminarian and she is a soon-to-be-single woman. At the end, there can only be one of a priest or a bride; either he stays true to his priestly vocation or they get married (or at least coupled). (If it was the Anglican Church of Korea, which also uses the title 신부, there’d be no problem.)

 (Both meanings of 신부 are derived from Chinese, but have different Chinese characters: 神父 for priest and 新婦 for bride.)

(There is another movie 어린 신부, which is either about a young priest or a young bride. A brief search clearly answers that one.)

(PS I showed my wife the movie poster and title in Korean, and asked which she thought of first when she heard or read 신부. She pointed at the woman, but then said “The man’s clothes look like 신부님”, so maybe ‘priest’ is always/often used with the honorific. At several points in the movie so far, the young man has addressed the older priest as 신부님.)

(PPS Now that I’ve watched the whole movie, I’m not totally sure about how it ended. Whichever way, it was very understated. I might have to ask my wife to watch at least the last few scenes. But I’m sure that the 신부 of the title is the young man/seminarian/future priest.)

(PPPS The bigger question is how native speakers and second language learners of any language resolve ambiguities, including homonyms.)

If ye love me

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may bide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.

One staple in the repertoire of the kinds of church or community choirs I sing in is If ye love me, by Thomas Tallis. Note ye and you, will and shall and pray the Father

Some people decry any change in language as the first step to incoherent grunting, but language has always changed and always will. Example 1: ye and you. Until about 400 years ago, (most) English speakers observed the distinction between the subject form ye (ye love me) and the object form you (give you, bide with you), and also the singular and/or intimate thee/thou/thy/thine and the plural and/or polite ye/you/your/yours. These all collapsed onto all-purpose you/your/yours, and almost no-one cared. (Art, wast and wert disappeared around the same time.)

The people who rail against singular they rarely mention singular you, which must have been just as shocking at the time, and the people who use non-standard plural forms such as y’all,* all y’all or yous(e) are railed at for being non-standard. (Note that you started off as plural anyway. If anything, we need a ‘singular you’.) (*I originally included you all, but the more I thought about it, the more I became sure that plural you all is standard: compare “I am very pleased to welcome you all here today” and “I am very pleased to welcome y’all here today”. (Also all of you.))

Because most people encounter thee/thou/thy/thine in Shakespeare, the King James/Authorised version of the bible or the Book of Common Prayer, or musical settings of texts from those sources, they imagine that these are formal/polite, and use them in conscious but often mistaken imitation. Leigh Brackett and/or Lawrence Kasdan, the scriptwriters of The Empire Strikes Back, has/have Darth Vader asking the emperor “What is thy bidding, my master?”. 

(Wikipedia has more about the T-V distinction (from Latin tu and vos).)

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Love’s pure light loves pure light

Six years ago, very soon after started this blog (I can’t quite believe it’s that long), I wrote about Round John Virgin and some other linguistic aspects of the Christmas hymn Silent Night.

Recently, one of the choirs I sing in was invited at short notice to record some items for a Christmas musical entertainment to be streamed into aged care facilities around Australia. (We have just begun to rehearse together again.) One of these was as the backing for a soloist singing a slightly jazzy arrangement of Silent Night. Among other things, there were several extra notes inserted into the melody, which then required extra words (or maybe the arranger decided to insert extra words, which then required extra notes). Small example: in one verse, Silent night, holy night became O silent night, and holy night. Larger example: Son of God, love’s pure light became Son of God, he loves pure light, which is not just adding a word, but changing the grammar and meaning of what follows.

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