Flickr’s Fractured Greetings: Korean

Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by Flickr’s cutesy attempts to improve international understanding (or whatever) by telling you how to say some equivalent of Hello in a randomly chosen language whenever you refresh your Flickr homepage? The one that set me off most recently is Korean Bangawoyo ‘Pleased (to meet you)’, which corresponds in usage to Japanese Hajimemashite, French Enchanté, or Romanian Îmi pare bine (or Frenchified Încântat), and so on. None of those equivalents are on Flickr’s list of greetings. For Korean, I would have expected something like Annyeong (안녕), which is a good match for Arabic Salaam or Hebrew Shalom.

Do Flickr’s intrepid researchers just ask random speakers of random languages for greetings and then accept whatever they’re told? Have they never heard of Omniglot? Can someone tell me what Mingalaba really means in Burmese? ‘Come eat!’ perhaps?

UPDATE: Of course, “Haro! Haro!” was by far the most common greeting directed at Westerners when I was a kid, but was somewhat less common when the Outliers visited in 1985, and much, much rarer during our sabbaticals there in 2005-2006, even when we were pretty far off the usual foreigner circuits. Being greeted as if I were a talking parrot used to irritate me a lot as a kid, as did constantly being stared at, or having my skin or hair stroked or cheeks pinched by little old ladies when I was a child. When a bunch of junior high school boys tried out their “Haro!” on me in the gardens of Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) in 1985, I responded in Japanese with “Haroharo tte ningen no kotoba desu ka?” (‘Is “haroharo” a human word?’). That seemed to silence them for a few moments.

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2 Comments

Filed under Burma, Japan, Korea, language

2 responses to “Flickr’s Fractured Greetings: Korean

  1. In the early 60’s in Japan, it was quite often that I was greeted by, “May I English you?” Or, even more simply a shouted, “Haroo!”

    In Korea in the mid-60’s, especially in rural settings, a hollered, “Hallo,” was common. Once traveling with two friends in the very south of Korea, we got off at the wrong station to make a change of trains and had to wait for another connection. The station was very rural–not even a vending machine or tea house in site. Suddenly a train arrived and a large group of uniformed school kids poured off and surrounded the three of us shouting, “Hallo!”

  2. It’s not just Flickr: the Scrabble-knockoff application on Facebook does the same (though it does manage to get the Korean “hello” right), and I’m sure the trend is spreading. I mean, who can resist computer-generated multiculturalism?

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