Posted by: vlibrizzi | April 25, 2009

America = beautiful country

Last night, we had some friends over for drinks and got to talking about what other countries and cities are called in other languages. The conversation started because one English speaking friend did not know that Florence was called Fierenze in Italy, and as a result, he got himself in a bit of a pickle with some Italian colleagues. 

Then, one of our Korean friends told us that in Korean, America is called Mi Gook, which literally means “beautiful country.” It made me feel so proud and patriotic for a minute to know that another country would call my homeland a “beautiful country” 🙂

But then, our Korean friend continued his explanation and asked us if we ever wondered why Americans often call Koreans “gooks.”

Then he explained to us that during the Korean War, the Korean children were so happy and excited to see American soldiers that they would often point to them and say “Mi Gooks” which, as we now know means “Americans.” 

The Americans, not understanding the Korean language, mistook the Korean children for speaking English (I’m not sure why), and thought that they were saying “Me Gook” or “I’m a Gook.” So, the American soldiers during the Korean War began calling Koreans “gooks,” and it stuck.

Pretty interesting, huh? 

I’m glad our English speaking friend divulged his embarassing story about Florence/Fierenze, because if not, I would have never known about the Korean word, “mi gook.”

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