There’s a rumor around town that there is a very wicked “word” witch in Seoul whose principle job it is to hijack unsuspecting words or what I like to call “un-words” such as “wich” from various signs, menus and what-not and turn them into… (drum roll, please)… yes, you guessed it… into, Konglish abbreviation.

Flickr/Tony & Debbie

Flickr/Tony & Debbie

It all started innocently enough some years ago when a fledgling chain restaurant decided to take the leap into the Konglish abbreviation/juxtaposition realm. This chain, which catered to Western-styled food lovers, was known for its sandwiches and espressos, but in trying to make a catchy name for itself, the owner unknowingly begat an avalanche of English language-mangling, spiraling downward with no end in sight.

The self-proclaimed expert of sandwiches and espressos became “Sand Presso,” amusingly enough eliciting a vision of Sahara desert pressed into a suitcase. Then, there is the prosperity-minded “Sandrich” which does evoke an image of food (or a drink) but regrettably a cup filled with “rich” sand. There’s the “Sand day,” a cutesy play on the word Sunday but again, you feel as if you’re meant to go to the beach on seeing the sign instead of eating; also, the very unoriginal “Sandbuck”(no longer in operation since the original posting of this article several years ago on Korea Times) which of course we’re meant to associate it to the cachet normally attached to the other famous “buck” name ― I won’t say which, so you have to guess! Last but not least, there’s my favorite, “Sand &Food.” I literally did a double take when I saw this sign. Imagine what a foreigner might think. “You have a choice, Buster, either you eat food or eat dirt. Oops! I meant sand.”

Still, this kind of Konglish is not what saddens me, for its target is primarily the local Koreans, and as far as they are concerned, “sand” is an understandable, convenience-sake, adequate substitute for a longer, harder-to-pronounce sandwich, like “aircon” is for air conditioner. What really galls me is the awkward/inappropriate usage of English (let me be the first, or I hope so anyway, to dub it “Manglish”) in the larger public forum, such as government websites, corporate slogans and even news ― yes, sometimes, even including this newspaper(ref. Korea Times).

Government and corporate English-version websites are my special pet-peeves; having typed, translated and spell-checked, they seem to think that the job’s done. It seems almost none of them ever make the effort to ascertain the actual flow of content; in other words, proofreading! They should know better and they have the wherewithal! Twenty years ago it might have been excusable, but in this day and age when you can toss a rock in Insa-dong an literally hit not only the proverbial Kim but also a native English speaker, well, that’s just plain lazy.

So, here’s a call to all the citizens out there who long to be freed from the bondage of Manglish ― use the “Contact us” portion on their websites and “contact them.” In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for more real (?) Konglish since it is so amusing at so many different levels and much less annoying.


The arch-nemesis of word witches world over, the word police organization media2media, better known as M2M  – I just made that up because it sounds snazzier ― has located the un-word “wich” and a host of other words strewn about the city aimlessly wandering around, hoping to reattach themselves to their former mates. The un-word, “wich,” which was very grateful to be found, said that it hadn’t realized that it was only a block away from its home in Insa-dong, having paced about endlessly looking at different “sands” here and there yet not willing to commit to one lest it should be the wrong “sand.” M2M is proud to report that it has found the original “sand” and is currently negotiating the safe return of “wich” to its partner’s fold. ’Til next time ― M2M, to the rescue!

Above article was also published on Korea Times. It has been updated. Please be advised that the writer holds the English language capability of Korea’s general populace in the highest regard.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s