I want to start with a simple example. Words are like bags or containers for meaning. The words themselves are packages in which we store meaning, and different cultures pack words with different meanings. Sometimes, we’re surprised at the meanings other cultures pack into their words.
Here’s one example of how this might work. Jereme and Adam both went shopping. They both brought home a bag that says E-Mart.
- They both bought noodles. (Jereme shows Korean “glass” noodles. Adam shows spaghetti.) They might look a little different, but they’re pretty close.
- They both bought red sauce. (Adam shows tomato sauce. Jereme shows red pepper paste.) Those are going to taste VERY different.
- They both bought something fermented. (Jereme shows kimchi. Adam shows sour cream.) At this point, both people might be saying, “You’re going to eat that?! Sour cabbage? Rotten milk?” And both people are saying, “Oh yeah, that’s good stuff.”
- They both bought fruit. (Adam shows an apple. Jereme shows a 참외.) Sometimes, when you start unpacking cultural differences, you run into a total difference. One person says, “What is that? We don’t even have a name for that.” Actually, the only translation I could find for 참외 is “oriental melon.” Basically, the dictionary people were like, “Um ... it’s kind of like melons you have in other countries, but not really.”
This is how words and cultures work. ...
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