In the last week I have learned, via social media, of the deaths of three older men who I met earlier in my life through my involvement in music in two different cities as I moved around – a cathedral organist/choir director/university lecturer, a pipe organ builder and a stalwart of the local music theatre company. I knew them well enough to remember them and to want to express my condolences, but not well enough to keep in contact with them as I moved around (though I did bump into one on one visit to that city). I left messages on the Facebook pages of their closest family member (two of whom I knew as well or better, and one of whom I only saw around and never actually spoke to, so I explained who I was). One replied briefly and the other two “hearted” my comment

The English phrase Rest in peace is often used in this context. This conveniently shares initials with the Latin phrase Requiescat in pace, but there’s a difference. Requiescat is subjunctive, and is better (and sometimes, maybe often or even usually) translated May (s/he) rest in piece. Rest by itself is imperative, so Rest in peace is Requiesce in pace (singular) or Requiescite in pace (plural). The plural of Requiescat in pace is Requiescant in pace. All of these are derived from the noun requies, which is best known in its accusative form requiem (as in Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine, Grant them eternal rest, Lord. Requies, in turn, means re + quies, or quiet again.

So, Requiescite in pace David, Peter and Peter, though I’m not sure if “quiet” is an appropriate wish for an organist, organ builder and singer. I like to imagine them getting together somewhere and making a joyful noise.

In fact, rechecking those three Facebook pages, I have just learned of the death a few months ago of another musical acquaintance, so Requiesce in pace Mary as well. I may have to stop reading Facebook.

(Most of the Latin from Wikitionary.)


Harry Potter and the Overworked Translator

A few days ago the topic in the textbook was books, especially translating books between languages. Most of the students I’ve ever taught read very few books, and this class was no exception. Some of them had read books in English. I asked about Harry Potter, probably the most famous set of novels in English in the recent past, and available in many languages. Some had read at least some of the books either in their language or English, but not both. I asked about the titles. The first book is usually either ‘magic stone’ or ‘magician’s stone’, but the Korean word translates as ‘wizard’. The Nepalese students conferred, then said ‘shining stone’. Continue reading

gugak and gagaku

Many years ago, possibly before I went to Korean the first time, I came across a reference to gugak, or Korean traditional music. In the Korea the first time, I saw and heard various performances of traditional music, but did not encounter the word. In Korea the second time, I wandered around the regional city I was living in on various occasions. One day, I saw a museum of traditional arts and crafts. I had always thought that gugak was gu+gak, but the hangeul at the museum read 국악 or gukak. (One advantage of hangeul is that it tells you where the syllables are.) Guk by itself means (among other things) nation (most often found in words like 대한민국 (dae-han-min-guk, the official name of the Republic of Korea), 한국 (han-guk, the short name) and 외국 (oi-guk [way-guk], any foreign country). Ak by itself is related to 음악 (eum-ak, the general word for music) (which I incorporated into my Korean name, which I rarely use). So gugak is literally “national music” (국가 음악).

Last night I came across a reference to gagaku, or the classical music of Japan. Are the words gugak and gagaku related? Possibly, but after some research this morning, it’s impossible to be sure, working across Chinese characters, Japanese kanji, hangeul, pronunciation, transliteration and translation of all three language into English, and dictionary and encyclopedia entries. Gagaku is 雅楽, literally “elegant music”. The syllabification seems to be ga+gaku, because there is a related word bugaku, or “dance music”. Gugak includes court music, folk music, poetic songs, and religious music used in shamanistic and Buddhist traditions. Gagaku is primarily court music and dances, but also Shinto religious music and folk songs and dance. Continue reading

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. 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’.

Samsung, Chilsung, Subaru

Samsung is a South Korean company best known for mobile phones and other consumer electronics. Its name in Korean 삼성 (sam-seong), means “three stars”, but doesn’t refer to any three stars in particular. The Korean pronunciation is closer to /samsɒŋ/ (psalm song), but almost everyone in English-speaking countries pronounces it /sæmsʌŋ/ (Sam sung). In fact, I was prompted to write this by a video on photography in which the presenter pronounced it /sæmsʊŋ/ (closest to Sam should). Korean doesn’t have a close equivalent to English /ʊ/.

Chilsung is a very popular brand of lemonade (cider) made by the Lotte Corporation. Its name in Korean 칠성 (chil-seong) means “seven stars”, and refers to the Big Dipper. I haven’t heard enough foreigners pronounce to know how they pronounce it. Spelling both words with a u messes up foreigners’ conception of the vowel. Revised Romanisation transliterates it eo and McCune–Reischauer ŏ. u transliterates ㅜ (/u/) in both systems. Continue reading

Singing in Korean

Sometime about the beginning of November, my wife arranged with the conductor of her church choir that I could join them to sing in a cantata on Christmas Day. (My church choir is singing at a very early service, and I just can’t get there in time.) I have been attending Sunday afternoon rehearsals for about six weeks, and learning the words by myself on the train. The music is straightforward enough, but the words are entirely in Korean. I’ve sung (actually performed) in other languages before; lots of Latin, some German and French, a sprinkling of Italian, Spanish and Welsh, one movement of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Hebrew and all of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in Russian. As far as I can remember, the words for the Bernstein were given in transliteration, but the words for the Rachmaninoff were in Cyrillic and transliteration. (Hebrew is written right-to-left, and would not naturally fit into in a musical score. I have seen a hymn in Arabic for Arabic-speaking Christians, and the whole score is reversed.)

Continue reading


Hot on the heels of posting about variations of the name Francis yesterday, I discovered that a player in the England cricket team currently touring Australia is named Dawid Malan. Wikipedia lists 160 variations from 91 languages – more languages but fewer variations than Francis.

Dawid (pronounced DAH-vid in Malan’s case) is listed as Afrikaans (he was born in England to South African parents; his father has the same name), Polish and Swedish, and as a transliteration of Biblical Hebrew, Korean (though I would transliterate it Dawit), Syriac and Yiddish.

When my first boss in Korea took me to the immigration agency, he unhesitatingly wrote 데이비드 (de-i-bi-deu), so I use that spelling when I have to write my name in Korean (which is not often). Korean translations of the bible use 다윗 (da-wit); many biblical names in Korean are closer to the Hebrew original than to the English version.