Koreanism of the Month: Bizarro English-Language T-Shirts


Writing about nuclear weapons, NK brutality, and the US Right’s extremist meltdown is enough to make any reader jump out a window. So here is my monthly effort at humor – Korean habits that fit the ‘I’ve-lived-here-awhile-and-I-still-don’t-get-it’ category for Western expats in Korea.

English is all the wave here. Apartment buildings use English names, advertising sprinkles English words throughout. English words that have Korean analogues are nonetheless transliterated without translation.

But the most everyday occurrence of this is in clothing. Koreans wear a lot of shirts with English words and expressions but almost certainly have no idea what it means. To boot, the English is often incoherent or downright profane. For more on the English language t-shirt craze, try here.

Try these:

P090909001 P090918002

P090916003 P090922002

P090916004P090924003 P090924006

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8 thoughts on “Koreanism of the Month: Bizarro English-Language T-Shirts

  1. Not the time or place so Dr. Bob, feel free to delete:

    On this day in 2004 Wimpenny, Alan a British operator, died fighting the GWOT near Sammara. No remains were recovered; no grave for his children to visit. His obituary did not appear in any paper and his employer did not acknowlrdge his service.

  2. Dr. Bob:

    Interesting but not surprising. In the 1980s the French were heavily into break-dancing. Actually, they still break. The French also rap. In fact, there used to be a French rap group in the fashion of NWA called “Nique Ta Mere”, translation “F*** Your Mother”. In fact the group landed in French jail for profanity. Also, I remember back in the 80’s when Africa Bembata was a great hit with the French break-dancing community. He sang a song, it went like this “a Paris les Zulu sont funky”. Africa Bembata is an America.

    Question for you, woud you consider Gore Vidal a US Right Wing Extremist? He sounds like Glenn Beck. See: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article6854221.ece

    I am sure that according to your criteria, Gore Vidal is a US Right Wing Extremist. Right?

  3. I used to sit in my GSP classes at PNU reading the backs of t-shirts and trying to comprehend their subtext. All ‘language’ has meaning, by virtue of the fact that it is, well, language. Surely there must be some message, corporate, personal, political, or otherwise.

    After many headahes and fist-clenching, I came to the conclusion that there isn’t. Its just some vague cultural association, and a hefty whack of typography. Purely superficial without any particular meaning other than “I like english”.

    Its not so different to some Americans (and lets face it, Australians) getting Chinese or Japanese characters for ‘faith’ or ‘love’ or ‘destiny’ tattooed on their bodies, only to find that it actually means ‘soup’ or ‘wheel’ or ‘stupid foreigner’.

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