English "-ing" ending in Korean

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Rich Scottoline sent in the following photograph of a box of crackers that he happened across in a Nonghyup food store in South Korea:

참 (1. truth; 2. really, truly)ING –> cham-ing –> charming
Romanization: Cham-ing (Revised Romanization), Ch'am-ing (McCune-Reischauer)

Cham-ing is straight up what it looks like: a Korean transmogrification of "charming". But it's also playing on the Korean word cham ("genuine"), which can connote "attractive", and that Korean meaning is of course what will jump out at a glance to a Korean (note that the Hangul is much larger than the Roman letters). Crazy but clever.

These crackers are said to have a "creamy butter scent" (MR k’ŭrimi pŏt’ŏ hyang); “hyang” is 香 ("fragrance; scent").

While we're looking at -ing words in Korean, there is a credit card called #ing.

#ing–> sharp-ing–> shopping
쇼핑(shopping in Korean) — Romanization: syo-ping (RR), syo-p'ing (MR)

We have already seen that English -ing has been borrowed into Chinese to indicate the present continuative ending. In these Korean examples, we have -ing being borrowed as a participle and gerund. Other than this grammatical distinction, I think that there's a fundamental difference in the way the -ing is being used here in the Korean and the way it is used in Chinese. In Chinese it is borrowed as a productive morpheme that can be tacked on to any appropriate verb. In Korean, however, it is being used as the ending of a transliterated English word. The English words "charming" and "shopping" might just as well have been transliterated entirely in Hangul, but I suppose that the -ing was used to emphasize their foreign flavor.

[Thanks to Bill Hannas, Bob Ramsey, and Haewon Cho]


  1. Rubrick said,

    March 27, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

    As a connoisseur of wordplay, every time I see a new example like this I feel more impoverished for living in a country with only one script in common use.

  2. David Morris said,

    March 27, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

    My wife sometimes includes these in my lunch-pack, and I had never given it a second thought.
    Korea's leading brand of soju is Chamisul, which after reading Victor's post I assumed means 'truly alcohol' (or maybe 'truth alcohol', which would be an interesting play on 'in vino veritas'!), but looking closely at the Wikipedia article, I found that the final syllable is actually '슬' and not '술' so that 'Chamiseul' is 'real dew' (Wikipedia) or 'indeed dew' (Google translate).

  3. Dan said,

    March 27, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

    Is "-ing" the most canonically English morpheme? I feel like it shows up unexpectedly often in borrowings in other languages: eg, Spanish "el shopping" ("the shopping mall"), Spanish/French "el/le parking" ("the parking lot") and the utterly inexplicable French "le shampooing" ("the shampoo").

  4. Hyeyu said,

    March 27, 2014 @ 11:02 pm

    Yes, Chamisul (참이슬) means real dew. So, many people play with it like "Let's go to drink dew." "You live on dew?" "She only drinks dew." <= this is a quite popular metaphorical expression in Korea, which means she's so pure, clean, and so on. However, because "dew" can stand for "Chamisul", sometimes people say that sentence to mean she really likes drinking. :) of course, it started after the brand name Chamisul appeared.

  5. Hyeju said,

    March 27, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

    In addition, I think what's going on in the card name "#ING" is.. in Korea, "ING" itself is used as it means "a thing is ongoing right now." in some conversation. I think it is because we always heard that "ING – if it is added at the end of a verb, it means it is happening right now" at middle school and high school (probably, nowadays, even earlier?). So, people started using "ING" like a whole word. One more thing to add is usually English words do not replace Korean verbs or grammatical parts of Korean. Many people use English words as nouns in their conversation, and even English verbs or adjectives are used just like a noun. For example, we say "call-hada". "call" here is an English word. If we put "hada" at the end of an action noun, it becomes a verb. If we say "tired-hada", it means "I am tired" although the subject "I" was dropped. In this way, we frequently combine English words and "hada" in conversation. I suspect that this is possibly because Korean is SOV language unlike English or Chinese. We really cannot end a sentence with English words because It sounds weird! So, "ing" cannot be used as a suffix of a verb in Korean.

  6. Frans said,

    March 28, 2014 @ 11:12 am


    "Parking" for "parking lot" is also Belgian Dutch. And "living" is Belgian Dutch for "living room" (common Dutch: woonkamer).

  7. dw said,

    March 28, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

    In French, at least, the -ing English loan words add a new member (the velar nasal) to the language's phonemic inventory.

  8. CuConnacht said,

    March 28, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    Un smoking in French is a dinner jacket.

  9. Jongseong Park said,

    March 28, 2014 @ 10:46 pm

    "#ing" doesn't really work well for me, not as well as "참ing" (which itself requires a moment of reflection, but is cute enough when you get it). # in this case is read syapeu 샤프 in Korean, which is "sharp" with an epenthetic vowel at the end. We're meant to drop this epenthetic vowel so that we have 샤핑 syaping instead of simply putting 샤프 and 잉 together as 샤프잉 syapeuing, and then we're meant to read it as standing for "shopping", when the canonical form for this in Korean is 쇼핑 syoping, with a different vowel in the first syllable. Sorry, for me, it is a bit too much of a stretch to make the visual cross-linguistic pun work. For me there may be the added interference that in all major varieties of English distinguish the pronunciations of "sharping" and "shopping".

    According to the official system of transcribing foreign languages into Korean, the LOT vowel in English is usually mapped to Korean o 오, but because of the LOT-PALM merger in American English there are plenty of cases where it is mapped to Korean a 아 in Korean:

    Bob 밥 bap
    box 박스 bakseu (but boxing 복싱 boksing)
    collar 칼라 kalla
    column 칼럼 kalleom
    doctor 닥터 dakteo
    documentary 다큐멘터리 dakyumenteori
    dollar 달러 dalleo
    gospel 가스펠 gaseupel
    hiphop 힙합 hiphap
    hockey 하키 haki
    hot dog 핫도그 hat dogeu
    Jobs 잡스 japseu
    jockey 자키 jaki
    locker 라커 rakeo
    pop 팝 pap
    volley 발리 balli
    But "shopping" is established as 쇼핑 syoping, although "shop" is often seen as both 숍 syop and 샵 syap.

  10. David Morris said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 4:02 am

    잉 is a permissible syllable in Korean, but does it exist as a Korean word or morpheme? I can't think of any word I've encountered in my small to medium experience of Korean, and the only reference I can find by searching is as the translation of the Chinese 'Ying'.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 6:25 am

    @David Morris

    I was hoping that somebody would ask exactly those questions. Now I'm hoping that somebody will answer those questions.

  12. Jongseong Park said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

    ing is sometimes used as an onomatopoeia for the buzzing of a flying insect like a mosquito.

    There are also a number of hanja (Sino-Korean characters) with the reading 잉 ing, the most common by far being 剩 with the sense "remain", used in words such as 과잉 過剩 gwaing "excess" and 잉여 剩餘 ing-yeo "leftover", "remainder". But this is too rare to be a productive morpheme, and there is no everyday hanja word consisting of the syllable 잉 ing by itself, although the dictionary lists 잉 剩 ing as a very obscure musical term in a specific historical musical treatise.

    Aside from the onomatopoeic usage, the most common everyday word that uses the syllable 잉 ing is probably 잉어 ing-eo, "carp". This derives from the Sino-Korean 鯉魚. The canonical reading of 鯉 is 리 ri and 魚 어 eo; a regular rule concerning initial consonants changed 리 ri to 니 ni and subsequently 이 i in initial position, so the regular reading of 鯉魚 would be 이어 ieo. However, probably because 魚 had an initial /ŋ/ at some point, 鯉魚 gave rise to the Korean word 잉어 ing-eo instead. Similar retention of historical /ŋ/ accounts for 상어 sang-eo "shark" from 鯊魚 and 붕어 bung-eo "crucian carp" from 鮒魚, among others. So etymologically speaking, this isn't a case of a morpheme 잉 ing.

  13. David Morris said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    Wow! Thank you. 'Korean Made Easy For Beginners Volume 1' doesn't cover that!

  14. JQ said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

    How did 剩 sheng4 turn into 잉??

  15. JS said,

    March 29, 2014 @ 11:38 pm

    @Jongseong Park
    I assume Chin. initial ŋ- in 魚 or elsewhere is reflected in Korean only in VŋV contexts where it could be analyzed as a coda? Happen to know of any parallel cases involving other words or sounds?
    This reminds me of the reflection of Chin. final -m in Japanese onmyōdō 陰陽道, where it could be analyzed as an initial. These all seem to imply the borrowing of whole words rather than (re)coinage based on Sino-K/J character readings…?

  16. Jongseong Park said,

    March 30, 2014 @ 5:55 am

    I honestly have no idea. One would have expected a reading like 승 seung

    Because of the phonotactical constraints of Modern Korean, the only place /ŋ/ can appear is in VŋV contexts. I found one case where /ŋ/ doesn't appear: 대두어 大頭魚 daedueo, a rare name used for "cod" (more commonly known as 대구 大口 daegu). The fact that it is not a common word may account for the canonical hanja pronunciation without /ŋ/.

    But there is also at least one case where the initial /ŋ/ supplanted the original coda of the preceding syllable, i.e. VCŋV → VŋV: 뱅어 baeng-eo "Japanese icefish" from白魚 (canonical reading: 백어 baegeo).

    Also note the different names for 망둑어 mangdugeo "mudskipper", which include 망동어 mangdong-eo and 망둥이 mangdung-i. The dictionary gives 望瞳魚 as the hanja for 망동어 mangdong-eo, and I guessed that this might be a back-derivation from the Korean, but this seems not to be the case as it gets a significant number of hits from Chinese-language websites. Maybe 망둑어 mangdugeo is an alteration of 망동어 mangdong-eo? I hadn't suspect at all that the morpheme 망둑 mangduk in compounds such as 문절망둑 munjeolmangduk "Acanthogobius flavimanus" could be of Sino-Korean origin. But I don't know anything about the relationship between these various, phonetically similar names so I can't tell which derive from which.

    Before I did this research, I guess I hadn't realized that so many fish names in Korean were of the form -ŋ-어. Many Sino-Korean syllables have the /ŋ/ coda, so I didn't really suspect much. Words like 고등어 godeung-eo "mackerel" and 다랑어 darang-eo "tuna" sound like they could be Sino-Korean words (indeed, 고등 godeung is the reading for 高等 "high-level", inspiring the popular but incorrect folk etymology that the Korean name for mackerel means "high-level fish"). But the dictionary doesn't indicate Sino-Korean origins for either of these. Other fish names like 짱뚱어 jjangttung-eo "blue-spotted mud hopper" couldn't possibly be Sino-Korean, because no hanja syllables sound like 짱 jjang or 뚱 ttung.

    To explain these latter cases, my guess is that 魚 was at some point productive in Korean with the initial /ŋ/, combining with native Korean morphemes in some cases, and that it was due to this influence that /ŋ/ was also retained in wholly Sino-Korean words such as 잉어 ing-eo "carp". Simply supposing that the whole words were borrowed don't account for the prevalence of -ŋ-어 names that don't come from Sino-Chinese. Also, I think if whole words were borrowed from Chinese, they would have diverged significantly from the canonical hanja readings instead of being identical save for the insertion of /ŋ/.

  17. JS said,

    March 30, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

    @Jongseong Park
    Wow, this is prevalent — perhaps the word 'fish' itself never had ŋ- in SK, but an ŋ- initial "allomorph" was recognized within early SK compounds like i.ŋeo (~iŋ.eo) such as to allow analogical coinages. I wonder if this tendency toward _ŋ-eo in fish names is still operational?

    @JQ, Jongseong Park
    剩 is now supposed to have had an Old Chinese lateral initial; perhaps it has entered into the series of changes Jongseong Park presented above (ri>ni>i)? It would be nice to find parallel examples…

  18. Jongseong Park said,

    March 30, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

    No, the tendency toward -ŋ-어 in fish names is no longer operational. Most Korean speakers would not even be aware of such a tendency.

    ri becoming 이 i initially through an intermediate historical stage of 니 ni is an instance of a very regular rule in Sino-Korean called 두음 법칙 dueum beopchik, or the initial sound rule. According to this rule, in Sino-Korean vocabulary, initial ㄹ r is turned into ㄴ n, and initial ㄴ n (including those that result from the first rule) is turned into ㅇ (zero initial) if it is followed by /i/ or /j/. The original ㄹ r or ㄴ n is unaffected if it is not the initial sound of a word.

    Interestingly, North Korea doesn't recognize this initial sound rule. So a Mr. Lee 李 would spell his surname as 이 I in South Korea but as 리 Ri in North Korea. 女子 "Woman" is 여자 yeoja in South Korea but 녀자 nyeoja in North Korea. But in both Koreas, 男女 "male-female" will be written as 남녀 namnyeo, because 녀 nyeo is not the initial sound of the word.

    All this is to say that this is a positional rule and doesn't have much to do with the reading of 剩. The Sino-Korean reading of 剩 is 잉 ing with a zero initial, not *링 ring or *닝 ning. I don't know much about the subject, but Sino-Korean readings seem to be based on Middle Chinese values, and a zero initial in Modern Sino-Korean seems to correspond usually to the initials 疑 ŋ, 日 ɲ, 影 ʔ, 云 ɣ, 以 j, and 邪 z in Middle Chinese based on a quick glance at the table of Middle Chinese initials. The initial 邪 z gives rise both to the zero initial and ㅅ s in Modern Korean, so if 剩 had the initial 邪 z in Middle Chinese, I think that's our answer right there. Middle Korean had an unstable consonant represented by the obsolete letter ㅿ, which in native Korean words often represented the intermediate stage before the loss of an original ㅅ s sound. Many Sino-Korean words corresponding to the Middle Chinese initial 邪 z were written with ㅿ, so my guess is that this was the case for 剩.

  19. JS said,

    March 30, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

    剩 belonged to the MC initial category 船, now considered to have been palatal ʑ, so perhaps that is now regularly reflected as zero in Sino-Korean… something about which I sadly know next to nothing.

  20. Jongseong Park said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 7:28 am

    船 is 선 seon in Sino-Korean, though, and the Middle Chinese 船 ʑ initial regularly to correspond to Sino-Korean ㅅ s (and rarely with affricates ㅈ j as in 舐 지 ji or ㅊ ch as in 秫 출 chul).

    There are exceptions, however: 蝓 is 유 yu with a zero initial in Sino-Korean. 蛇 is usually 사 sa, but the dictionary tells me that there is also an alternate reading 이 i.

    So I think that in a couple of exceptional cases including 剩 잉 ing, characters with the Middle Chinese 船 ʑ initial patterned with the initial 邪 z instead in Sino-Korean.

  21. BZ said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    I am curious about the # thing. Is it really true that the first thing someone looking at that symbol in Korea would think of is the English "sharp"? Is that what they call it in musical notation? Not some form of "dièse" like in most languages or a local word like in English? If so, is that the only place one would encounter that symbol in Korean writing?

  22. Jongseong Park said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    @BZ: Yes, the first name I think of when I see the # sign is 샤프 syapeu "sharp". It is actually commonly pronounced 샵 syap, though this is nonstandard (the rule is to add on the epenthetic vowel at the end if the original English vowel is long, as in "sharp"). You can also say 올림표 ollim pyo "raising sign" for the musical notation, but 샤프 syapeu or better yet 샵 syap is snappier. Plus, when you're reading F#, you will always say 에프 샤프 epeu syapeu, or more realistically, 에프 샵 epeu syap, unless you take the effort to translate it into the corresponding Korean musical terminology, 올림 바 ollim ba.

    In fact, I think the familiar practice of reading # as 샵 syap has led many Koreans to think that the original English word is "shop", not "sharp". As I mentioned previously, 숍 syop and 샵 syap are both used as transcriptions of "shop". Come to think of it, this confusion may be behind the use of #ing as short for "shopping". It seems more likely that the originators of #ing thought that it would also work for English speakers than that they were forcing a cross-linguistic pun just for a Korean audience.

    Another common name for # is 우물 정 umul jeong, after the name for the similar-looking Sino-Korean character 井. In automated response systems, they will tell you to press the 우물 정 umul jeong key on your phone, for example.

  23. BZ said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

    @Jongseong Park,
    Interesting, that. In the US, most of the general public probably doesn't know about the sharp sign (technically ♯). I happen to be in a rare subgroup of a programmer who can read music, so nobody had to explain C# to me when it came out. In fact, the two derogatory terms for the language, C-Hash (also pronounced "cash", as in what Microsoft expected for inventing it) and C-Pound (as in illogical and hard to use, or maybe same as cash in the UK, though that's not a UK Pound symbol), arose directly from the ignorance of the "sharp" sign.

  24. Jongseong Park said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    @BZ: I guess most Koreans would be familiar with ♯/# almost exclusively as a musical symbol. Music education is widespread enough that this usage would be recognizable to the general public. That's why the name for ♯ doubles for #, which is technically a different symbol as you point out.

    Outside of the musical context and some specialized areas such as programming, the symbol # isn't much used in Korea. Its use as the number sign is largely unknown. For Koreans, it's just a symbol that happens to be found on the standard keyboard and on phones.

  25. Bob Ladd said,

    March 31, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

    @ Dan, Frans, et al.

    The -ing ending is all over the place in Italian, too. A facelift is il lifting. Behind-the-scenes political pressure is il pressing or il mobbing (there are subtleties beyond what my rough glosses convey). And you can sit in front of the TV for a pleasant evening engaged in lo zapping. And so on.

    Obviously, there's no fancy mixing of writing systems, but at the very least linguists can get excited about the fact that the phonologically conditioned alternation between il and lo works even before these Angloid loanwords.

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