Kendall Willets had long ago noticed that Korean honorifics show up disproportionately in commercial settings, but this article brought up something new. The -si- 시 infix is only supposed to apply to the verb if the subject has higher status, but in service settings it's expanding to everything, including coffee.
The big LOL sentence for me, was when the Coffee 알바 (short for 아르바이트, “Arbeit(work)” from the Japanese-German arubaito/baito which denotes part-time workers in Korea) in the video says,
그 사물 들에게 우리는 존경의 마음을 억누를 수 없습니다. 커피 나오셨습니다. 커피가 제 시급보다 더 비싸거든요.
roughly translated as:
“We cannot control the boundless respect we have for these things. “Here’s your coffee.” (this is the kind of sentence they are talking about, which to my ears, can only be translated into English as (with a little bit of exaggeration) “His Coffeeness has graced us with his presence.” Then she goes on to say “It’s because (a cup of) coffee is more expensive than my hourly wage.”
[VHM: sic (punctuation and all); emphasis in the original]
One might prefer "unable to suppress" over "cannot control" in the first sentence but that's nitpicking. The second sentence reads literally "the coffee has come out" (i.e., "here's your coffee") with an honorific infix added to the verb. The third sentence is translated correctly.
The video that is linked to in the article has been shared among many linguists and language practitioners to alert them to the inappropriate use of honorifics in Korean. This overuse of honorifics seems to have become a new tradition, especially in customer service areas, and has stirred up quite a controversy in Korea. This satirical video was produced to exemplify how inappropriate it is to use honorifics for objects, because this implies that the speaker is inferior to the objects that are so honored.
The coffee shop worker (alba) says:
커피 나오셨습니다. 이쪽이 라테십니다.
keo-pi na-o-syeot-seum-ni-da. i-jjo-gi ra-te-sim-ni-da. (RR)
k'ŏ-p'i na-o-syŏt-sŭm-ni-da. i-tcho-gi ra-t'e-shim-ni-da. (MR)
Here is (your) coffee. This is (your) latte.
She uses the Korean honorific affix 으시/으셨 (-usi [present, RR], -ushi [present, MR] / usyeot [past, RR], usyŏt [past, MR]) to honor the customer's coffee and latte, which is a major no-no in Korean grammar. The honorific affix "으시" is attached to a verb or adjective stem to express the speaker's respect to the human subject of the sentence.
After the coffee shop worker, the car sales person also uses 으시 to honor the engine and the tires in the video:
엔진은 터보이시고요. 타이어는 광폭이십니다.
en-jin-eun teo-bo-i-si-go-yo. ta-i-eo-neun gwang-po-gi-sim-ni-da. (RR)
en-jin-ŭn t'ŏ-bo-i-shi-go-yo. t'a-i-ŏ-nŭn 'gwang-p'o-gi-shim-ni-da. (MR)
This car has a turbo engine (literally, the engine is a turbo). It also has wide tires (literally, the tires are wide).
This attitude toward honorifics in Korean seems to differ from that in Japanese where it is obligatory to speak of "honorable tea", and so forth.
[Thanks to Haewon Cho, Bob Ramsey, and Bill Hannas]