Culture stuff

Asked Korean friends to define pittakkage- 삐딱하게- which is most often translated as crooked but via context means something much different than the usage in ‘there was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile.’
So they tried to demonstrate with a series of charades. They showed somebody sitting in church and crossing their legs. That was a complete blank for me. They showed somebody sort of slouching, weight off center, more on one foot than the other, arms crossed. Sort of like the way I stand all the time, because one leg is shorter than other and I prefer to get the weight off of that hip. They showed me somebody sitting properly- straight up, both feet flat on the floor, back straight, hands on the knees (preferably, slightly closed hands, fingers folded down under the palms, palms down on the knees)- this is not 삐딱하게. It’s proper. Then they showed me the contrast, sitting unevenly, a leg crossed, slouching…

For me we went from stiff and uncomfortable to comfortable, relaxed or possibly lazy and sloppy, but none of these conveyed what they felt was the essence of 삐딱하게.

I can’t recap all the work we went through trying to reach mutual understanding and alternately shocking each other. Much of it went like this, though:
Me: You can’t sit with your legs crossed? This is so unimportant in American culture I would not even notice if somebody’s legs are crossed or not!
Them: You don’t notice? IT doesn’t MATTER? You can do that in CHURCH?!

Essentially, it’s a combination of being rebellious, on the hostile side, looking for trouble, making trouble, selfish.

Straight and centered seems to be an important key to understanding a lot of Korean culture, from the alphabet on up.

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  1. Mama Squirrel
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Interesting. In Out of the Silent Planet, the term “bent” is used to describe, originally, the one who fell (Satan) and, later, a sinful man. Similar?

    • Headmistress
      Posted October 14, 2018 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      That makes sense.
      And we do use crooked in a slightly similar fashion- Crooked Hilary, a crooked businessman. But I think the Korean version is more of a thing about disrespect and flouting social niceties and norms- spitting, shoving, raucous behaviour.
      And slouching.

  2. Kristina Tyree
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Sounds like you almost need a concordance of sorts.

  3. Frances
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Inveterate sloucher here, I’m afraid!

    I have the uneven leg problem too, since my hip replacement. It settled enough after a while so now I can just use a heel lift in one shoe rather than paying for a built-up sole, and on good days I can walk barefoot in the house. Other days I use my Physiolift sock which holds a heel lift – a bit pricey but for me a great investment.

    These bits of cultural information are fascinating – thank you!

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