You Have Nose Star Calipers? AKA Maybe I Should Practice Korean More?

Today’s fun conversation in Korean:

ME: You have a nose star calipers?1.
DOLLAR STORE CLERK2.: Huh? Nose star?
ME: Yeah, you know. Nose star calipers.3.
DSC: You mean a nose hair trimmer?
ME: Uh… maybe. Nose hair?
DSC: Yeah. Like, this? [Makes snipping motion.]
ME: No, no. I mean like this… [Makes a buzzing noise, and spins finger round in a circle quickly.]
DSC: Oh! Yeah, right over here.
ME: What’s this called?
DSC: A nose hair trimmer.
ME: Ah. Right. Hair. Stars are in the sky, hair is in my nose.
DSC: [With a giddy laugh.] That’s right. Shall I ring it up?
ME: Yes, please do…

Yeah, this is probably a sign that it’s time to bust out the Korean study books again. Though I did have a good chat with the hardcore nice shop guy about snacks and friends abroad.

(He’s a hardcore nice shop guy because, though he looks like someone you ought to be scared of, he’s one of the nicest, coolest people I’ve ever met. He runs a shop down the hill, and his whole family is just a wonderful, happy trio. (I’ve met them in the shop and they’re all terrifically nice people.)

1. I really said clipper, but I’m assuming I have an accent.
2. It’s actually a 1000 won store but since a number of readers aren’t in Korea, I’m going with the closest thing I can think of to a general anglophone equivalent. I don’t know what they’re called in Oceania or Britain, but I do know most of the Brits here understand me when I say “dollar store.”
3. This is interesting if you speak French. The French word for body hair (or, I think, any not-head-hair on a person, is poil in the singular, while head hair is cheveu in the singular (or, more usually, cheveux in the plural). Korean makes a similar distinction: head hair is 모리 머리 (“mori” “meori”, which is also a word for “head”) while body hair is 털 (“teol”, rhymes with “dull”). Actually, I don’t know whether, in Korean, 털 is a bigger category containing 모리 머리, or otherwise, but anyway, the funny bit is that, if you haven’t used the word in either language for a long time, it’s really easy to mix up poil and 털, but since poil doesn’t sound like a Korean word, it’s also easy to then decide that poil is really 별 (byeol, also rhymes with dull). Unfortunately, this is the Korean word for “star” (as in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”), and at this point nobody will know what the hell you are saying to them. In other words, I am woefully out of practice. Even the fact I missed lunch today is no excuse.

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