[KS] Sensitive Korean language issues: <No Touch> is really <No.Da.Ji> ?

JooBai Lee jblee6952 at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 30 13:29:14 EST 2003

Sensitive Korean language issues:  <No Touch>  is  really  <No.Da.Ji>   ?

Dear List,

Can someone verify or debunk the etymology of the word <No.Da.Ji>?

          <No.Da.Ji(Eureka!) may be the hidden English in Korean>

<No.Da.Ji> is used in Korean as "hitting the bonanza", or "Eureka!",
or "hitting the jack-pot", implication being that you have hit upon
something of great value, such as hitting on a rich vein of gold.

On the other hand, <No Touch> suggests injunction to stay away,
matters of embarrassment, issues to be not discussed, or matters
of sensitivity better left undisturbed, and possibly a matter of some
sanctity better left untouched by outsiders.

One Korean-American suggested, with some humor, that <No.Da.Ji>
may be the Koreanized version of English <No Touch>.  This interpretation
being a mere folk-etymology, I wonder if there is a more scholarly
etymology of the word?

            < Any good pointers on language contact and Korean>

I wonder if there is any interest in opening the issue of Korean language
purism for discussion in the context of "No Touch" and "No.Da.Ji", that
is, in the context of "Taboo" and "Bonanza", and the context of 
global language contact.

                          <Heat of patriotism in Korea>

Given the level of temperature evidenced during the last name-plate
row in the Korean Parliament, with phrases like "matter of patriotism",
"self-esteem", "toadyism", and "issues of pride", I would like to be 
cautious in broaching the topic at all.  And even on the topics of
language imperialism of English, or on hangul hanja debate, the
peninsula appears to be quite divided, with emotions riding high.
And the division and the intensity of emotion, I suspect, is equally
present in government agencies, the private foundations, and even
in private corporate environments, and also by extension, the
immigrant communities, language teachers, and children of the
immigrant communities.

                    <Internal debate is nobody's concern>

In all fairness to insiders, internal matter is an internal matter, 
to be resolved internally and at the pace of insiders' choosing.
Who has any right to say anything about whether the history,
orthography, romanization, or mythology is revised semi-annually,
or at least with the change of administration. Nor is it of anybody's
concern that Koreans should debate the "proper" hangul spelling
of the various words of English, such as how "Washington D.C."
is "properly" spelled in Hangul.  I do wonder if all matters language
in any country should not be seen as "internal politics" and for 
"internal consumption".  But then, how bound are the outsiders,
to be faithful or sensitive to the currents of internal discussions?

By reciprocal logic, I would like to suggest that there is no need
for outsiders to be overly sensitive to the currents of the internal
discussions, which would put at jeopardy the foregoing precaution.

                   <What else is English in disguise in Korean?>

Going back to the issue of global language contact, below is a link
to the recent work by the group led by Professor M. Lachner at
Erlangen on "hidden English in modern Chinese", which I suppose
amounts to hidden English in modern Korean and modern Japanese.


"New Terms for New Ideas: Western Knowledge and Lexical Change
in Late Imperial China"

The modern bibliography may trace the renewed interest in this topic 
to the works of Federico Masini, with the intersection between Professor
and Professor Masini being the Jesuits, loci tradition,  and visible speech.

The issues outlined and developed in "New Terms for New Ideas" are more
often than not <No Touch> issues for Koreans and Korean patriots.

  1. The important role played by the Japanese in the formation of the
      lexis of modernity, applicable to Korea, China, Vietnam, etc.

  2. The less discussed issue of the even more important role played by 
      the English and American linguists and missionaries in the formation 
      of the modern vocabulary of East Asian nations, i.e. all of science,
      modern religion (i.e. Christianity), modern social institutions, 
      finance, trade, military, so on and so on. (Mori's cockamamie ideas?)

  3. The context that the work reminds us is the absolute interlinking
      of English with the modern languages of Asia, though disguised
      in the Hanja hated by the students of Korean, both in the states
      and Korea, and also hated by the Parliamentarians of Korea.

In many ways, the matters discussed in "New Terms for New Ideas" 
would be taboo or contextualized by way of imperialism and being
a matter of self-esteem, complicated by the fact of intermediation
of Imperial Japan in the case of Korea.

The matters discussed seem to be a broadening and historical 
contextualization of the work by A. Schmid, "Korea between Empires".

>From the perspective of the students of Korean, the fact of the 
hidden English in Korean would appear to be a matter of <No.Da.Ji>,
or a <Bonanza>, as it means that the American students of Korean can in fact

leverage his knowledge of English in learning Korean.  I suppose the
reverse would be true for Japanese, Chinese, and old-fashioned Koreans,
though not for the overly-principled patriotic Koreans.

I would like to ask how the issues of global language contact addressed
by works like "New Terms for New Ideas" are dealt with by the Korean
language patriots and how the same issues are dealt with in the Koreanist
community outside the peninsula.


JooBai Lee

jblee6952 at hotmail.com


More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list