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Sunday, April 23, 2006

New Word

I need your help. My coworker Earl and I are trying to come up with a word for a phenomenon that is common enough to need a word, but doesn't have one. We need a noun or adjective that describes the situation or feeling when the following happens:

Something happens that you were completely unable to predict, yet are unsurprised by.

Here in Korea, when foreigners get together and talk about their experiences, the freshmen are always surprised at things. For example, "Holy cow! My boss expects me to come in on Saturday and hand out flyers for three hours without paying me anything! What a jerk!" The more experienced among us (those who have been here for more than a month or so) shake our heads and say, "Yeah, that's only the [FM(1) + FM(2) + ... + FM(X)]th time I've heard that." (where FM is the number of times to meet a given foreigner, and X is the number of foreigners met.) For those of you who are mathematically disinclined, it means a lot. Not surprising.

But every once in a while you hear something like this: "My boss is demanding that during the 10 minutes between classes I must shell peanuts for him, and if I don't make my quota, my salary gets docked."

That would be an example of the kind of experience that we need a new word for. Because all of the experienced people here would say, "I've never heard of that work requirement before, but it doesn't really surprise me." Instead, we'd like to be able to say, "How ____ing!" or "Yeah, that's pretty _____." Or perhaps a verb, "Looks like you've been _____ed."

This word would also be very useful when describing the written English that our university students produce. Here is an example email that my coworker Earl received from his students:


Hello teacher,
Friday it is 4:00 study.
If MT it was a case attendance which will not go and cung to do,
when is not enter into a study and, do to do how, to inform.
I was a situation and the MT he became the nail store.
Thank you.


You don't have to be an English teacher to see that that is one incredibly twisted bit of language. We're pretty sure that the student wants to cancel the Friday 4:00 class because of MT (Membership Training, a wonderful Korean bonding tradition that involves taking a group of people to a far away place, feeding them bad food, making them drink way too much alcohol and play very silly games all night, sandwiching in bits of motivational speeches. They do this at practically every level of society, from big corporations down to elementary schools. Of course, the elementary school MTs don't involve drinking, as far as I know, but they have everything else.)

So there's the main idea. But what in heck tarnation is that email actually saying? Here's a challenge for you: Memorize any one of those sentences. Go ahead, give it a try. Say it out loud 10 or 20 times if you like. Feel free to replace the nonsense word, "cung", with any real word you like. (Good luck finding something that sheds any light on the meaning of the sentence.) You simply will not be able to keep any of that email in your head for more than a minute, especially if you use your brain for anything else during that minute.

And email like this is _____ for professors teaching English at a Korean university.

So all of you Roblog reading people out there, please, put your mind to this task. Help us to come up with a word for this so we don't have to say "I could not have predicted that, but it is not surprising." Just hit the comment button at the bottom of this entry, and give it your best shot.



p.s. The spell checker of course rejected "cung", but it also didn't recognize "tarnation"! Can you believe it? What in tarnation is wrong with the darn thing?


Anonymous said...

The best I can do is "precariognizant"

Jon said...

What's wrong with "cung"? It's a perfectly cromulent word.

Anonymous said...

That is a really good suggestion. My only problem is that it is too long to say, especially considering how often such a phrase would be used. Earl

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.