Saturday, August 12, 2006

us waeguks

I can't stand the term "waeguk" or "waygook," often misused as a noun by expats who should know better: "The way they stare at us waeguks gives me the heebie-jeebies." I've never heard of a single Korean who pointed at a foreigner and called him or her a waeguk.

Koreans usually refer to foreigners as waeguk-saram, a slightly less polite form of waegugin (or oegugin if you're into that Korean-government romanization). The term waeguk, by itself, simply means "foreign." It comes from two Chinese characters: "outside" (wae) and "country" (guk). The terms in and saram are, respectively, the Sino-Korean and pure Korean ways to say "person." A waeguk-saram is an outside-country-person, ein Ausländer. (Aus = outside; länd = country; -er = person)

So remember: when applied to people, waeguk is an adjective. It never stands alone. Say waegugin. Save waeguk, the noun or adverb, for when you're trying to say "study abroad."


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