Often, expats in Korea like to share some of the crazy English that they see on things like the covers of notebooks, on T-shirts, and so on. I myself included one example–taken from a T-shirt I got at the Jeonju International Film Festival several years ago–in a story titled “Country of the Young,” where a carry-bag has the enigmatic phrase, “And Of Course Carrot!” which, if you know enough Korean, is not at all enigmatic.
Basically, it’s a transliteration of a pun. As far as I understand it, in Korean, 당연 (dang-yeon) means “naturally, of course, certainly”, and a similar-sounding–but more oft-used word–is 당근 (dang-geun) which means “carrot.” So one can say, 당근 이지! (“It’s carrot!”) as a humorous way of saying, “Absolutely!” or “For sure!”
My T-shirt had a much longer text, and only ended with something like “With Conversation, and Of Course Carrot! There was an image of a kind of bunny-person happily holding a carrot. It was self-conscious humor, absolutely. A lot of the stuff we see Engrish on, like notebooks, T-shirts, and so on, are much less self-conscious than this, however. A Geek in Korea has a nice sampler up.
Anyway, today I offer you something I’ve never seen in Korea, but had to go all the way to Indonesia to see: Bahangeul? Kordonesian? Er… that is, the Indonesian mangling of Hangeul. Yes indeed, the influence of Korean pop culture, and of Korean expatriates in Indonesia, seems to be just enough that some notebooks have taken to mangling Hangeul on the covers. For example:
Here’s a closeup of the Hangeul section, with accompanying English that makes it easier to figure out what it’s supposed to say:
Can you figure it out? (If you can’t sound out Hangeul, and guesstimate, it might be tough.) Solution (as much as I could figure out) in the extended part of this post.
Reading this depends on seeing Hangeul simply as an alphabet, and coming at it from a point of view that privileges Roman letters, but knows enough about Hangeul to know a little phonetics, at least one basic Korean word, and so on.
The text says:
ㅌ 허 노터보ㅗㅋ 폴 ㅡ리팅
고ㅗㄷ ㅣ 마거 폴 ㅛㅜ
머오 더식 ㄴ
Let’s start with the first line:
ㅌ 허 노터보ㅗㅋ 폴 ㅡ리팅
The first hint something strange is going on is that first character, ㅌ. It stands alone, which means it’s a word of its own. The fact that it signifies the “T” sound in Korean has nothing to do with its usage here, though. As any Anglophone knows, it looks, far too recognizably, like the Roman letter E, and that’s what it’s supposed to sound like in this sentence. But in Korean, 이 has the same sound as the Roman letter E does in English, and presumably in Dutch too, so… it’s a pun on the Korean word 이, which means “this.”
The rest of the sentence is English, though.
This 허 노터보ㅗㅋ 폴 ㅡ리팅
Puzzling this out, the use of repeated vowel characters without consonants attached jumps out at anyone who knows Korean, as the language isn’t written this way. (I mean, for example, in Korean nobody writes a word containing two of the character ㅗ in a row without a consonant between them, as in “보ㅗㅋ.”) In English, though, we do use double-vowels, and it’s rapidly obvious that “노터보ㅗㅋ” is “notebook”… and thereafter that 폴 (pol) is simple the closest one can get to “for” since Hangeul lacks anything like our “f” and “r” as an ending character in a syllable. (It’s common, for example, for people to Romanize “Gord” as “골드” (goldeu) regardless of the fact it sound nothing like “Gord” and sounds far too much like “Gold.” But then, a lot of Koreans seem to hear Gord and gold as sounding rather similar anyway — L and R sounds being fluidly related in their own tongue.
This leaves us with:
This 허 notebook for ㅡ리팅
ㅡ리팅 sounds like eu-ree-ting if you sound it out in Korean (and ignore the missing ㅇ that would accompany the ㅡ) but if you sound it out using the Korean letters as analogues for English letters, it becomes eu-ri-ting, that is, writing. “This 허 notebook for writing” makes 허, quite obviously, “here.”
If we follow this logic, the rest quickly can be resolved as:
ㅌ 허 노터보ㅗㅋ 폴 ㅡ리팅 / This here notebook for writing
고ㅗㄷ ㅣ 마거 폴 ㅛㅜ / Good image for you
머오 더식 ㄴ / More design
And that, folks, is what I think may be the first reported case of the cutesy Indonesian mangling of Hangeul. At least, in the English-language blogosphere.
(Hat tip to Miss Jiwaku for passing the notebook on to me, after I figured out what the hell it said.)