The Fail of the Romanization Umpires

How I "romanize"

OK.. sorry if that title is a bit cutesy, but I couldn’t resist.

Last post I reviewed Rust by Yang Gui-Ja.

Today I gave my Dongguk students their first assignment that will feed into the KTLIT Wikipedia Project. Don’t worry, it’s academically appropriate for them.

I gave them the list of un-paged authors from Wikipedia’s “Korean Novelist” page. My students being super-geniuses, immediately started to try to go off list towards the things that interested them, or that they thought would be good for English-speakers to know (It is an entirely different post, but my tenure at Dongguk suggests to me that the reputation Korean students have in some quarters for lack of creativity is woefully, completely, and uselessly out of date. These kids are creative  monsters!).

This Should Be Lionized

Before even looking at MY list (*sniffle*) I had three students up at my desk/podium/thingie asking if they could work on Yang Kwi-ja. I looked at my list and said, “sure, that name is not on….,” and then I realized it was a different Romanization of Yang Gui-ja.

I went to Google and checked the three romanizations that I could think of:

Yang Kwija – 177 pages
Yang Kwi-ja – 12,900 pages
Yang Gui-ja – 1,280 pages

I’m afraid I don’t have enough knowledge to chase down the McCune-Reischauer romanization, but I’m sure there is one.

This is disheartening, as the particular book I read (translated and published by Koreans) had Yang Gui-ja as the author. Yet that name in a Google would cut out over 90% of the posts about her. And here’s the kicker, Google, which is normally good at picking up “near misses” (EG type in “Hunter Tompson” and Google automatically asks “Did you mean: Hunter Thompson “) does not suggest different romanizations.

So I would be, to use a technical term, relatively hosed.

I’m not sure if I have an actual suggestion here, since this partly reflects the reality that works were published under different names. But this does suggest random changing of romanization (or slogans, or whatever), can be unproductive thrashing that creates nothing more than fog.

3 thoughts on “The Fail of the Romanization Umpires

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  2. Hm, personally, I think Yang Gui-ja is more appropriative than other two alternatives in terms of actual pronunciation.

  3. Gon
    No doubt….

    the problem is that Korea, for whatever reasons, hops around on romanization to English. Japan has been rock-solid since I’ve been a reader. China had the Peking/Beijing change, mainly to toss of the imperialist romanization that.. well.. really sounded wrong.

    I am not enough of a historian to know why Korea has gone so far off track on this, I just recognize that they have….

    It doesn’t give a naive English-speaking reader a chance to track down authors they like…..

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