1996 March 26

The Korean word for "Mister" sounds something like "AD-DA-SHEE". Koreans call every man that they don't know by name, "AD-DA-SHEE". Koreans will tell you that this is an extremely friendly way of referring to the person. Most will say it translates to "UNCLE". This really is misleading because to us that implies a very close family or friend relationship. I quizzed my Korean friends further and found out that there is a completely different word for your parents siblings, and you would never call them "ad-da-shee". I don't know how Koreans came to translate AD-DA-SHEE into uncle. AD-DA-SHEE is usually modified by a description of what the man does. In this manner it is much clearer what the meaning is simply "man" or "mister" as in POST AD-DA-SHEE (postman, Mr. Post) or Fish AD-DA-SHEE (fish-man, Mr. Fish) or TAX AD-DA-SHE (taxman, Mr. Tax). So they might simply say "good morning postman"; or, "Newspaper Man, please give me 2 papers", etc..... Clearly this is not the same as "UNCLE".

My friends often refer to me as "JOHN AD-DA-SHEE". It is a polite appellate and I always answer to it! People who don't know my name may call me "American AD-DA-SHEE" or "Engineer AD-DA-SHEE" or simply "AD-DA-SHEE".

Once I was walking along the street and in front of me was a young child holding her mother's hand. They girl was only about 4 years old and she was running to keep up with her mother's slow pace. When the girl saw me, her eyes grew wide and her mouth froze in surprise and curiosity (foreigners are not too common here in Korea). She missed a step and her mother looked down at her. Quickly the child pointed her tiny hand at me yelled "A-B-C AD-DA-SHEE"!!! At first I didn't understand what she had said, but she said it many more times as she stared at her mother. Her mother smiled and laughed at me and I threw a friendly smile and a wave back to her and the girl. That little girl knew her A-B-C's I bet; and she new I wasn't Korean. She made some sophisticated deductions and figured I was one of these people who spoke that A-B-C language. So, that's how she called me; "Mr. ABC". What a smart little girl!!

I am always amazed at the creativity and the capacity to communicate that even the youngest children possess. As I struggle to learn the Korean language, I have that little girl to thank for helping me grasp the full meaning of "AD-DA-SHEE".

I've been called many other kinds of "AD-DA-SHEE" since then. My favorite is "BEARDED AD-DA-SHEE" which in the Korean language sounds like "TURBO AD-DA-SHEE". It has that high-tech sound to it: "TURBO-MAN". The first time someone explained "TURBO" to me they said it means "hairy" as in "hairy dog"!! Luckily a more learned English speaking friend told me that a better translation was "bearded".

"Mr. Hairy Dog" does have a certain "je ne c'est qua", don't you think?

John Del Ferro /Taegu,Korea/26MAR96