Suffer the consequences

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Sign in Guilin, China:

The Chinese and the English are pretty simple.

yánjìn tōu huá, wéi zhě hòuguǒ zìfù 严禁偷滑,违者后果自负
("it is strictly forbidden to slide on the sly; violators will bear the consequences")

Let's see what the Korean adds.

몰래                            슬라이딩을             하면        안      되고
secretly/ behind one's back    sliding-obj         do-if      not    may/okay -and
mol-lae                        seul-la-i-ding-eul  ha-myeon   an     doe-go (RR)
mol-lae                        sŭl-la-i-ding-ŭl    ha-myŏn    an     doe-go (MR)

위반하는         자는          책임을               본인이        지기   바랍니다.
violate-ing    person-topic responsibility-obj oneself-sub carry request-polite
wi-ban-ha-neun ja-neun      chae-gim-eul       bon-in-i    ji-gi ba-ram-ni-da (RR)
wi-ban-ha-nŭn  ja-nŭn       ch'ae-gim-ŭl       bon-in-i    ji-gi ba-ram-ni-da (MR)

Literally it means, "It's not okay to slide secretly / behind our back and we request that violators be responsible (for the consequences)," which can be translated as "Sliding is prohibited and violators are responsible for the consequences."

From Bill Hannas:

It's the English that's the anomaly.  Though it captures the idea, you can see from the Chinese that it leaves a lot out.

By contrast, the Korean translates the Chinese.  Also, bear in mind that the one character 滑 requires 5 syllables in Korean (4 for the transliterated loanword "sliding", 1 for the accusative particle marker).  And the Korean has postpositions after nouns, and verbal affixes, to be "grammatical", lit.

"if (you) do (sliding) (it's) not OK, and …"

which is 5 more syllables.  They could have shortened it by using a Hanmum (汉文 [Sinitic]) inspired style, but it wouldn't be idiomatic by today's standards.

From Bob Ramsey:

That's the tendency these days in South Korea. Someone had the idea that it's better not to write simply "prohibited", and instead to write a longer, softer message. The theory is you get better compliance that way. I wonder if there are any statistics to back that up.

After analyzing the Chinese, the English, and the Korean, we still don't know what it means to "suffer / bear the consequences".  Will you be risking life and limb?  A heavy fine?

Let's look at a photograph of the "ride" in question:

As Dean Barrett, who sent the two photographs, remarks:

This is the ride the sign was warning about; a strange looking ride in Guilin of stone or whatever that no sane parent would send his kid on, but there were painted signs of kids riding.

I wonder how much it cost for a ride not done stealthily. And how many kids get hurt even when they pay for the slide.

[Thanks to Haewon Cho.]


  1. Keith said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 2:07 am

    At a guess, it's a kind of summer bob-sleigh run.

    If you pay the fee to ride on one of the little trolleys that are designed for the run, it's safe.

    If you decide to "slide on the sly" on your skateboard or roller skates, then you are likely to injure yourself.

    The whole idea of getting better compliance by rewording an interdiction is like those signs in English that thank you for following a stated rule ("thankyou for not smoking", "thankyou for throwing your bottles in the recycling bin") rather that using a stern warning about transgression ("no smoking, fine $200", "litterbugs will be stoned").

  2. J. Goard said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 7:40 am

    "And the Korean has postpositions after nouns, and verbal affixes, to be "grammatical" […] They could have shortened it by using a Hanmum (汉文 [Sinitic]) inspired style, but it wouldn't be idiomatic by today's standards."

    I have to disagree. In my experience, far and away the most idiomatic way to express prohibition in signage is a noun (Sino-Korean, native Korean or recent English loan) followed by 금지 (禁止). Korean signs tend to be well on the terse side of comparable English signs; you'd be hard pressed to find a "Please don't smoke" or a "Thank you for not smoking" over here. So, given my cultural expectations of signs in Korea and the U.S., the extreme politeness of the Korean "we request that you take responsibility" and the bare threat of the English "suffer the consequences" strike me as even *worse* translations of one another. Plus, a 위반자 'violator' (better than 위반하는 자 'person who is violating') is presumably already not politely accepting responsibility by virtue of their actions; you'd get much closer to the English sense by telling them that they 처벌받다 'get punishment/penalty', or 피해를 보다 'see harm', or that 자신에게 피해가 돌아온다 'harm comes back on themselves'.

  3. Jongseong Park said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 8:11 am

    The comma is unnecessary (actually, I would prefer to break it up into two sentences) and there's a tiny bit of awkwardness to the way it is put, but that's a surprisingly idiomatic bit of Korean compared to what one often sees in China. But the choice of 슬라이딩 seullaiding "sliding" is not a good one. To Koreans, this loanword from the English only ever really refers to sliding in baseball, or maybe a sliding tackle in football. So I was confused when I saw the sign before seeing the context. They should have used the expression 미끄럼 타다 mikkeureom tada instead if they meant sliding as on a slide (미끄럼틀 mikkeureomteul in Korean). Koreans may overuse English loanwords, but we haven't replaced all our basic words with them!

    "No sliding" would be 미끄럼 타기 금지 mikkeureom tagi geumji. If I just replaced the word for sliding while keeping the original construction, it would start as 몰래 미끄럼을 타면 안 되고 mollae mikkeureom-eul tamyeon an doego. I would still rewrite the whole thing and make it less wordy, because it is a bit of an overkill.

    By the way, I'm still not getting how you're using the hyphens in the Korean transcriptions. 책임 is chae-gim/ch'ae-gim instead of chaek-im/ch'aeg-im but 본인 is bon-in/bon-in instead of bo-nin/bo-nin? Are you marking phonetic syllable boundaries after enchainement or the boundaries between the original Sino-Korean syllables? I personally think hyphens are usually completely superfluous when used within morphemes, and would only use them between words and particles. In fact, in most implementations of the McCune-Reischauer romanization, spaces are put between words and particles, like this (I'm also treating each word-initial stop/affricate as voiceless per the Library of Congress recommendation):

    몰래 슬라이딩을 하면 안 되고, 위반하는 자는 책임을 본인이 지기 바랍니다.
    Mollae sŭllaiding ŭl hamyŏn an toego, wibanhanŭn cha nŭn ch'aegim ŭl bonin i chiji paramnida

  4. Jongseong Park said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 8:23 am

    Come to think of it, telling someone 책임을 본인이 지기 바랍니다 chaegim-eul bonin-i jigi baramnida just means "take the responsibility yourselves", which doesn't have quite the same effect as telling them to bear the consequences.

    For written signs, I have to agree with J. Goard that most are quite terse in Korean. Anything this wordy strikes me as transcripts of the kind of spoken warnings one hears in public announcements and such rather than on a sign.

  5. Bobbie said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

    "Use at your own risk" works for me.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

    Romanization of Korean

    We usually use this converter for romanization and choose the "general things" option that comes with hyphens:

    Since this is an automatic converter, there may be some errors (if so, it's my bad!). It's true that hyphens usually are not used in romanization unless specified in the "Romanization of Korean" rules. For more information about romanization:

    Since I am not a specialist on Korean, I hope that I may be forgiven for using the "general things" option of the Hangeul / Han'gŭl [Hankŭl] converter. I fully realize the complexities of Korean romanization from, among other things, having written a book review of Lewis Lancaster and Sung-bae Park's The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue (see Journal of the American Oriental Society 103-2 [1983], 468-9). In going over the thousands of entries in the catalog, I soon noticed that there were no transcriptions of the Korean readings, although the compilers were careful to provide romanizations of Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. When I asked Korean scholars how to romanize certain entries, they were usually reluctant to attempt them. Or, if they did, there would be discrepancies with the romanizations I found in other sources. My friends who were Korean specialists often weren't sure which versions were right, or they weren't always able to give a clear-cut answer, or they simply held differences of opinion concerning voicing, parsing, and so forth.

    Here's what I wrote about this problem in my 1983 review:


    Perhaps the most disappointing feature of all is the lack of transcriptions of the Korean readings of the titles. It seems to make little sense to provide the Hangul pronunciations in a book intended for Buddhologists who do not specialize on Korea. The decision to employ traditional Korean Buddhist pronunciations only "at times" (p. xxi) also seems questionable. The determination of word boundaries and sandhi problems do present enormous obstacles, but surely someone must know how to pronounce these titles properly in Korean.


    Naturally, here on Language Log, I always appreciate improvements in the simplified versions that I give, which are intended to help those who are completely unfamiliar with Hangul to gain a least a basic understanding of the sounds of the items being discussed.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 7:33 pm

    From Bob Ramsey:

    I totally agree with Jongseong Park. I don’t know if you remember, but I sent you a message myself about the use of commas like that. And his question is on point: “Are you marking phonetic syllable boundaries after enchainement or the boundaries between the original Sino-Korean syllables?”

    Would you put in all those hyphens when transcribing Chinese or Japanese?

    As I said in my earlier message, they serve only to make Korean look sufficiently primitive to reassure smug Western sensibilities. ―Just the way Anglos used to transcribe primitive American Indian languages!

    But to your question, hyphens between all those syllables like that are not called for either in RR or McR―or, and most especially not, in Yale.

    Jongseong Park says: “I personally think hyphens are usually completely superfluous when used within morphemes, and would only use them between words and particles.” I totally agree―except that I wouldn’t put them to separate particles, either. As Martin specified for Yale, let’s just use a space! Note that Park shows you how to do that, and how it should be done, in McR!

    Again I ask: Would you separate Chinese syllables with hyphens like that? — ze-ren (責任)? Then why ch’ae-gim (which doesn’t even match the boundaries between the original SK syllables)?

  8. Victor Mair said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

    "Late night fun on the Super Slide at Easter Show leaves five injured"

    Herewith, some people who also had to take responsibility for their illegal slides

  9. Jongseong Park said,

    April 20, 2015 @ 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. I should have guessed that the Korean romanizations were the result of automatic conversion in which case the hyphens are completely understandable. And no one's going to blame you for errors in automatic conversion!

    The automatic converter you linked to works fairly well for names that are given in the traditional surname-forename format. It seems to have a database of surnames so that it can identify when the input doesn't seem to be a Korean name, and also when there are ambiguities created by disyllabic surnames such as 남궁 Namgung, 선우 Seonu, or 황보 Hwangbo.

    But beyond this very limited use case, it runs into lots of problems. Korean pronunciation is not entirely predictable from the spelling (despite what you may hear), so you need some sort of a dictionary in order to romanize properly. The converter doesn't seem to be attempting anything of the sort, though.

    It fails in cases like 알다 alda "know", which in McCune-Reischauer it writes incorrectly as *al-ta. It is true that in Sino-Korean words, ㄷ after ㄹ is unvoiced, but this is generally not the case for pure Korean words.

    Another overzealous application of non-universal rules results in 석유 石油 seogyu/sŏgyu, which it writes incorrectly as *seong-nyu/sŏng-nyu with inappropriate n-insertion.

    The romanization of Korean is hugely difficult and your anecdotes of Korean specialists having such trouble don't surprise me in the least. It doesn't help that the official rules for Revised Romanization or the initial publicized rules for McCune-Reischauer do not mention the various issues dealing with things like word division. The U.S. Library of Congress has published more detailed guidelines over the years on word division and capitalization, though these have changed from version to version, and specialists in other places have slightly different traditions of applying McCune-Reischauer.

    The difficulty of romanizing Korean is something I'm addressing in a personal project I'm working on at the moment in my spare time. There's a Korean pronunciation dictionary section on my website which is still very much under construction. I'm mostly testing out ideas about the transcription of Korean pronunciation at this point, but I'm also giving the Revised and McCune-Reischauer Romanizations for each entry. I'm mostly focused on proper names at this point and have a very basic geographical names section as well as a selection of pre-1945 biographical names, but I do plan to add post-1945 biographical names and sections for various other Korea-related terms.

  10. Robot Therapist said,

    April 21, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

    There is a significant distinction (in English at least) between

    – you are welcome to do X, but it's at your own risk

    – you are forbidden to do X, and if you do, it's at your own risk

  11. Victor Mair said,

    April 22, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

    Here's another Hangeul converter. Let me know if you think it is better than the other one I mentioned above.

  12. Jongseong Park said,

    April 23, 2015 @ 1:57 am

    @Victor, the Lexilogos converter is even more basic than the one you have been using, as it doesn't take into consideration even the mandatory phonetic assimilations (like 백마 baek.mabaengma). To be fair, it is quite up front about its limitations and lists them right below the conversion window.

    I think the best approach would be to use the converter you have been using and to just take out the hyphens. Since the converter is inconsistent in where it is placing the hyphens (I'm guessing it usually follows the orthographic syllable boundaries except when the coda is voiced due to a following vowel, but this is not a practice followed by McCune-Reischauer at least), it is best to leave them out altogether. And then to have someone who knows the romanizations proofread it, because no automatic conversion will be foolproof.

    Speaking of proofreading, I might as well point out that I had a couple of mistakes above in my example for McCune-Reischauer:
    몰래 슬라이딩을 하면 안 되고, 위반하는 자는 책임을 본인이 지기 바랍니다.
    Mollae sŭllaiding ŭl hamyŏn an toego, wibanhanŭn cha nŭn ch'aegim ŭl ponin i chigi paramnida

  13. Jongseong Park said,

    April 23, 2015 @ 2:11 am

    Oh, and you should convert each word separately for the McCune-Reischauer, since the converter seems to treat even phrases as one word, using voiced stops and affricates to begin words if the preceding word ended with a voiced sound. You can simply use the orthographic spaces to determine most word divisions, but you do have to be careful to separate out particles, especially 가 ka, 고 ko, and 과 kwa (using MR) that might end up with g- if preceded by a voiced sound.

  14. Victor Mair said,

    April 23, 2015 @ 6:19 am

    Still more on the Romanization of Korean

    Haewon Cho kindly evaluated and compared the two Hangeul Romanization converters mentioned above:


    This converter (Lexilogos) provides revised romanizations only, and does romanization based on orthography, not based on standard Korean pronunciation. At the bottom of the webpage, it says "This converter doesn't admit special phonetic rules for these cases."

    I converted the same sentence using the converter you gave me, and it yields this:

    몰래 슬라이딩을 하면 안되고
    위반하는 자는 책임을 본인이 지기 바랍니다.

    mollae seullaidingeul hamyeon andoego
    wibanhaneun janeun chaegimeul bonini jigi barapnida.

    Pusan U. Converter (RR):
    mol-lae seul-la-i-ding-eul ha-myeon an doe-go
    wi-ban-ha-neun ja-neun chae-gim-eul bon-in-i ji-gi ba-ram-ni-da (–> nasal assimilation)

    Without hyphens, please note that they yield the same romanization except for one word, 바랍니다.

    I tried three more words with the two converters. All three words are listed in the "special provisions for romanization" from the National Institute of the Korean Language website:

    백마 (white horse), 좋고 (good-and), 같이 (together)
    Pusan U converter: baengma (nasal assimilation) joko (ㄱ becomes aspirated after ㅎ) gachi (palatalization) – I eliminated hyphens.
    Lexilogos converter: baekma johgo gati

    I've tried other converters but so far the Pusan U one seems to be the most reliable one that provides both MR and RR.


    Conclusion: henceforth, we will continue to use the Pusan U converter, but will usually remove hyphens. As I had indicated in some of my previous comments and even Jongseong concedes, the Romanization of Korean is a difficult matter. It is clear from the discussion we've been having that even the best sometime make mistakes or there may be differences of opinion. So don't expect perfection from us. We shall continue to welcome your input and corrections.

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