Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Losing Face -- What Does it Mean?

Before you come to Korea, you know "face" and "losing face." But one thing most people don't know is what it really means.

It's like dying. Linguistically.

The Korean term for losing face is "망신" ("mangshin") using a character (mang) that means "death" (망할 망) and a character (shin) that means "body" (몸 신). If clearer examples are needed, let me say this: The same (Chinese-root) "mang" is used for physical death and the same "shin" is used for a physical checkup.

Thus we can say that losing face is equal to death. Or at the very least, "I almost died" and not in the valley-girl or ironic sense.

Soon-to-come posts will discuss Confucianism, indirectness, and other aspects of Korean society that remain only marginally comprehensible to the author but automatic for most of his nation-state coinhabitants.

[And you can thank me in the comments for not beginning a repost session (after a 14-month hiatus) with a passage about "oh I didn't have the time" because I did, I just didn't feel like it.]

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