Monday, May 20, 2013

majimak sajin (the last photo)

This is the final picture I took of Korea. I had been wanting to take this picture for a while, partly because of what it says about the country and culture. This picture is from just outside the entrance of my temporary apartment building:

The sign at the fence says, on top, "Sobyeon Geumji." Geumji means "forbidden" or "not allowed." Sobyeon means "urination." (Dae means "big" and so means "small"; byeon means something like "excretion." Daebyeon, i.e., "the big excretion," is what we Yanks would euphemize as "Number Two." Sobyeon, meanwhile, is Number One.)

All together, the words mean something like "Urination Not Allowed." Underneath that first line of the text is: "Hwajangshil Iyong." The verb iyong-hada means "to use"; iyong by itself functions as a noun in this context (although perhaps as something of a hortatory noun). Hwajangshil breaks down into hwajang, i.e., "makeup," and shil, i.e., room. Together, the words form the euphemism "powder room," much like the old term for restroom used in the West. In fact, hwajangshil translates as "bathroom" or "restroom."


Urination Not Allowed
Use Restroom
(arrow pointing restroomward)

What does one say about a culture that has to remind its members as to where to urinate or not to urinate? I talked a bit, before, about bad pissing habits starting early.



Charles said...

I have honestly never seen a sign like that before. That's pretty funny.

Elisson said...

When you're a man, the whole world is your restroom.