The witty comedy quiz show QI is now in its 11th series for the BBC, focusing on Quite Interesting facts connected with things that begin with the letter K. Plenty of scope for things Korean to crop up, then.
In the episode that screened on 21 September, a series of Korean folk expressions came up. Or alleged Korean folk expressions anyway. Maybe Korean readers can confirm their authenticity. We are indebted to the British Comedy Guide website for summarising the episode.
Everyone’s favourite expression is bound to be “He disappeared like a fart through hemp pyjamas”. Some of the other phrases discussed are similarly self-explanatory: “The other man’s rice cake always looks bigger” and “If there are too many ferrymen on a boat, it will sail up a mountain” do not require much imagination to think of the English equivalent.
Other phrases require a bit of explanation: “When will I eat your noodles?” is apparently equivalent to “When are you getting married?”.
Those that are familiar with the patrilineal obligations of Korean families will be able to hazard a guess that “He worked as if he were tending the grave of his wife’s uncle” means that the person applied himself with little enthusiasm or effort.
Other phrases mentioned are rather homely, for example “Showing off your wrinkles to a silkworm” (Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs), “You wouldn’t notice even if a friend at the same table died” (The food is damn good) and “My eyebrows are on fire” (I’m in a desperate situation).
But “Pummelling a dead monk” I find puzzling. It is apparently equivalent to “Flogging a dead horse”. One can see that flogging a live horse is something one might want to do to encourage extra speed or effort, and that flogging a dead one is not going to produce the same results. But what possible use is pummeling a live monk?
Any suggestions gratefully received.