Bum Suck and The Alternative

EFL Geek posted relatively recently (a few months back) about English Nicknames in Korea.

Me, I despise them. I basically ignore any English name offered to me by someone who wasn’t born with it. I have managed to create French- and Korean-language identities for myself just fine without a new, fake name that isn’t really mine.

I also think that the self-imposition of an English name is silly, since it reinforces the notion that Koreanness is incompatible with English-speaking, a ridiculous notion. I understand some people do it for fun, and sometimes in class I make an effort to acknowledge it if a student insists on being called “Shark” or “Winston” or the like, but usually I explain that I prefer to call people by their real names.

Finally, I laugh whenever anyone says Korean names are hard to pronounce. It’s three syllables, almost always very close to phonetically written. It’s far from hard. Russian names, those could be hard. Korean names are NOT hard to pronounce; it’s just that they’re hard to memorize in large groups.

And yeah, there are exceptions: Bum Suck is a name I never encountered till I arrived in Jeonju, and I’ve met three since. I also had a female student named Mi Seok (Me Suck), who had alright English but probably hadn’t figured out why I looked shocked the first time I heard her name. In those cases, I’d only consider explaining the way it sounds to an Anglophone if the person was planning to go abroad.

3 thoughts on “Bum Suck and The Alternative

  1. Hello Gord,

    I feel the same way as you do. Years ago, I had students who said their English names were “MacLyon” (Meg Ryan), “Destroyer,” and “Terminator.” I soon gave up on even asking if they had an English name.

    And you’re right about Korean names being easy to pronounce. The problem is that they do not know how to romanize their names properly. That is why I always insist they also write their names in Korea. I’ve seen the same family name romanized as Chung, Jung, Cheong, Jeong, Jong, Chong, Cheung, Jeung, and even Zong! I’ve seen “Cho” spelled as “Chough.”

    As much as I am against standardization and uniformity, it would be much easier if Koreans used a standardized romanization system as do the Chinese and Japanese.


  2. Oh yeah, the worst student name I had was a guy named Seok (suck) Dong. He was an ajeossi, and after several weeks, a colleague good-naturedly explained what “dong” could mean, and he said proudly that as “seok” meant “stone,” his was a very powerful name.

  3. Ha. Well, for me, the fact the Korean “o” is from the “aw” sound in “dong” saves the same Seok Dong. But I can see most people mangling that one pretty badly.

    As for the non-standardized spellings, yeah, that drives me nuts, too. I have to fight my personal urge to correct people into using the standardized romanization system (one exists, and while foreigners hate it because it simply uses roman letters in place of Hangeul, I don’t find it any more difficult for foreigners than pinyin); I remind myself that they’ve been spelling their own names in whatever weird way they prefer for at least a while, and sometimes for several years. I can’t bring myself to correct them then unless the spelling is utterly incomprehensible.

    And yeah, the stupid names that people choose for themselves — “Superman”, “King”, and “Apple” — just make me shake my head. But even a name like “Walter” or “Ellen” or “Misty” just kind of sounds dumb to me when, after all, it’s not like it’s really his or her name.

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