An Ideograph is Worth a Thousand Words

This image is from the instructions on a portable cooking stove’s gas canister. Chinese characters aren’t used much these days. Still, sometimes they’re more useful than Korean hangǔl.

gasǔ renji 凸 bubun
gas range convex part

gasǔ yonggi 凹 bubun
gas canister concave part

12 responses to “An Ideograph is Worth a Thousand Words”

  1. Bruce Rusk says:

    Roman letter work for this too of course: we have T- or U-shaped parts (=丁, 凹), O-rings, and so forth.

  2. julen says:

    Not exactly the same though, the character 凹 actually is the word for concave. A more similar case to the English T, U, would be the use of the characters shi2,or pin3, ba1, to represent forms (sorry I am in Europe cannot write characters here).

    Another interesting thing of this korean phrase is that it seems to be completely of anglo-sinese origin: Gas (en) rongqi (ch) ao/tu (ch) bufen (ch)

    This is what I really enjoyed when I lived in Korea, you could guess so many things by knowing these 2 languages, walking the streets was like a continuous word puzzle…

  3. People can’t write characters in Europe? Dang.

    Anyway, I was gonna say the same thing about 凸 and 凹.

    As for the Anglo-origins, at a Starbucks in Seoul you’d basically say “cafe mocha large size (gimme one)” where “gimme one” is the only thing actually in Korean. I can imagine it makes it painfully hard to actually learn the language though. It’s all crutch and no forced vocab acquisition.

  4. “This is what I really enjoyed when I lived in Korea, you could guess so many things by knowing these 2 languages, walking the streets was like a continuous word puzzle…”—couldn’t agree more, i lived the same.

    what i find a little striking in the above picture is that while hangeul were consciously designed to form syllable squares that match the square ideographic characters (presumably in order to be able to write aesthetically pleasing mixed texts), here 凸 and 凹 are considerable flatter and wider than the hangeul squares, making them stick out like the little drawings they are, and look less like characters. i wonder how many koreans are aware they are indeed characters with specific readings (yo and chheol, respectively), not only symbolic drawings.

    there is at least one more character to complement 凸 and 凹, namely

  5. Zrv says:

    Kellen: Interestingly, in “cafe mocha large size (gimme one)”, “gimme one” also happens to be the only thing actually in English.

    “cafe” is from modern French
    “mocha” is from Arabic
    “large” and “size” are from Old French

    Imagine how hard it must be for French speakers to learn English — all crutch and no forced vocab acquisition! (excuse the tongue in cheek)

  6. Kellen says:

    “gimme one” here is actually “chuseyo” or however it’s spelled, but yeah. Cafe if French but also from Arabic q-h-w, for what it’s worth.

  7. Yi Chonsang says:

    That’s precisely it. The use of 凸 and 凹 is for the meaning, not the shape.

    The order at Starbucks would be 카페 모카 라지 사이즈 주세요, kape moka laji saijǔ juseyo

  8. HRB says:

    Julen: I don’t think 렌지 is from Mandarin. I guess Korean 가스렌지 < Japanese ガスレンジ < English “gas range”. As with other loanwords, the language regulator prescribes a de-Japanized spelling, 가스레인지, reflecting the English diphthong (rather than the Japanese monophthong seen in the image), as if the word had come directly from English.
    I know nothing about Chinese so I don't know if rongqi has been coined to sound similar to English “range”.

  9. Julen says:

    @HRB- I was not referring to the renji part, which seems quite clearly from English. I was looking at the yongqi (canister) word which is in the next phrase. In Chinese 容器 rongqi means container, as in bottle,etc.

    Of course this is only a guess, I don’t know enough of Korean to be sure.

  10. Claw says:

    @Julen: according to Wiktionary, it does indeed correspond to 容器.

  11. HRB says:

    @Julen: So I entirely misunderstood you there. Sorry! My bad for not knowing Mandarin and commenting without checking what rongqi actually means.

  12. Kuiwon says:

    I actually have a very similar post on my blog.

Leave a Reply