How do you say unspeak in Korean?
Do yourself a favor and read this review cum summary of Stephen Poole’s new book Unspeak. Poole’s idea is basically that politically charged terms often contain hidden presumptions. The canonical example seems to be pro-life and pro-choice, each term implying something abominable about it’s opponent.
I scoured the Korean language for examples of unspeak. Korean government agencies and media outlets tend to use a lot of euphemism (for instance, in the current avian influeanza outbreaks). Outright unspeak is a little more difficult to come across. and so far the best one I’ve come up with is ‘chamdarae’ (참다래) which is a recently created term for kiwifruit grown domestically. Imported kiwifruit are still called kiwi (키위). The unspeakableness comes from the fact that ‘chamdarae’ means ‘real kiwi’ (‘cham’ meaning real and ‘darae’ being some kind of disused earlier term for the kiwi tree unknown to most non-experts). So if the domestically grown kiwis are ‘real kiwi’, that contrasts with a imported kiwis which must be ‘gajjadarae’ (fake kiwi).
The Slate article links to a list of reader submissions, many of which I think miss the meaning of the word unspeak. For example a lot of Slate readers seem to think that the term ‘troop surge’ qualifies. I fail to see a hidden supposition. The term surge was used specifically to refer to a temporary, sudden increase in troops. This could be accurate or not (i.e. the increase in troop numbers may persist) but it would continue to lack an internal presupposition. Another couple that readers submitted were ‘heritage’ and ‘mass casualty event’. I think these would best be described as euphemisms. They don’t seem to fear much of a buried presupposition. This brings me back to the original paint roller concept behind the blog. People, especially sloppy-minded folks these days, don’t seem to have what it takes to keep a half-way rigid definition of a word in their head. I can see this book being a big hit and the term unspeak entering the lexicon and becoming another synonym for newspeak, political correctness and euphemism. Anything that people consider politically motivated speech eventually gets slapped with one of these labels, and now we have one more arrow in our quivers. Yay.