The Universe of Discourse

Mon, 13 Feb 2023

English signs in Korea

I saw this sign in Korea last year:

A yellow banner with Korean text in
large red Korean script on top and smaller text below.  If you look
just at the bottom half of the most prominent Korean word, it looks
like it says TOOL.  But this is coincidence, because the Korean script
just happens to contain shapes that are the same as the letters of TOOL.

As you can imagine, I completely misread this. It appears to say TOOL. But of course it does not say that, because it is in Korean. The appearance of TOOL is an illusion. None of those letters is Latin script. The thing that looks like a ‘T’ is actually a vowel ㅜ, coincidentally pronounced like the ‘oo’ in TOOL. The things that look like ‘O’s are consonants ㅇ, pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘ring’. The thing that looks like an ‘L’ is letter ㄴ, pronounced like an ‘n’.

The mystery word here, 수행정진, is actually pronounced /soohaeng jeongjin/. I'm not sure what this means, I think it might be something about vigorous devotion (정진, 精進) to asceticism (수행, 修 行) since I took the picture on the grounds of Bongeunsa, a Buddhist temple. I think the words 특별법회 in the blue oval are something about a special Buddhist ceremony to be held on 30 December.

I must have thought about such misleading oddities when I was first learning Korean, but I've never seen one in the wild before.

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