Korean Braille & Elevators
Koreans, like many Chinese, have a superstition about the number 4. In Chinese it’s because 四(4) and 死(death) are both pronounced “si”. In Korean, it’s because in Chinese they’re pronounced the same. The Sino-Korean pronunciation of both is 사. In native Korean, 4 is 넷 and “to die” is 죽다, though a Sinitic-root verb also exists, 사망하다. At any rate, anyone I ever asked about this gave the answer that it’s considered unlucky because of how it’s pronounced in Chinese, not in Korean.
As a result of this, and like in China, many Korean elevators lack a 4th floor. Most often it’s replaced with ‘F’ on the button. I don’t think I ever saw a lift that simply skipped 4 as they often* do in China.
Digging through some photos of the past year, I came across one of an elevator panel that I found a little curious. Here’s the photo, scaled down a bit.
For floors 3-5, the buttons read as follows:
Note the difference in the first letter in F as compared to 3 and 5. In Korean Braille, ⠼ is the marker to show that the following glyphs are numbers. Also, consistent with many other languages written in Braille, ⠉ is 3 and ⠑ is 5. 4 is actually ⠙ and if it were a number, ⠋ would be 6. But in the second line, ⠋ is preceded by ⠴. That glyph, ⠴, is actually called 영어표. That is, it’s the thing that marks the following letters as English. ⠋ then corresponds to the English letter F.
It baffles me a bit that a superstitious homophone in a foreign language requires a remedy in another foreign language, when they could just write 4 and call it 넷.
– – –
* I once lived in an apartment building that numbered the floors 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 … 11, 12, 15, 16 …, probably to accommodate the triskaidekaphobic foreigners who lived there.