Oh dictionaries.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quick question: which of these two terms would you be more likely to see in real life in Korea in 2009?

- Compatible (system compatibility in computers for example)
- Damage caused by tigers

Give it some real thought. Which one is more frequent? How many times do you discuss system compatibility vs. tiger damage?

Both of these are expressed in Korean with the word 호환. Guess which one has an entry in most dictionaries and which one doesn't. You guessed it - damage caused by tigers (虎患) is the one that always shows up.

The other word can be found in the example sentences below and through a search for 호환성 (compatibility, 互換性), and Yahoo! Korea thankfully shows the second term in a search as well but during the era of paper dictionaries the latter word was often not even present. I know this because in 2002 I specifically remember making a trip to a bookstore in Seoul to check out some other dictionaries besides my own to find out just what this word meant that kept popping up in the newspaper all the time, and it certainly wasn't talking about tiger damage. Unfortunately, at the time all the other dictionaries also listed it as tiger damage. Finally I had to ask a stranger just what this word meant. Should have just asked someone in the beginning but who knew it would be so hard just to find the second meaning of the word?

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