More from the front lines of the Sino-Korean Kimchi War. The South Korean government wants the Chinese to stop calling kimchi “pickled vegetables” in their own language.
The South Korean government has apparently decided that kimchi should no longer be referred to as pàocài 泡菜 (“pickled vegetables”) in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but should have its own name to distinguish it from other types of pickled vegetables.
So, what do they want the Chinese to call it?
For kimchi, the Koreans have decided that the new Chinese name is going to be xīnqí 辛奇. The Chinese are not accustomed to this and some have suggested that it doesn’t make sense, since xīn 辛 is usually construed as meaning “bitter; suffering; laborious” and qí 奇 means “strange; odd; queer; rare.”
A treasure trove of great English combinations there, but I’ll leave that alone.
According to Chinese language professor Victor Mair, the name might not actually be such a bad choice –other than the poor taste of asking a billion people to change the name of something with good taste.
Upon reflection, however, xīnqí 辛奇 may not be such a bad choice after all, since xīn 辛 is often used to describe the spicy/sour flavor of foods like kimchi and may even be seen on packages for Korean instant noodles. Moreover, qí 奇 may be thought of not merely as “strange; odd,” but also “wonderful; marvelous; mysterious.”
As far as naming goes, I’ve learned to accept that I am from a wondrous place called “Miguk.” As well as I accept the fact that my first name means “pig” in Malay. (Which is why, when preparing to meet my ex-gf’s parents, I suddenly became, “Robert.” Robert? Who could go through life with that for a name?)
For more on the kimchi clash, as well as “naming victories” for the Koreans in the Chinese mother tongue, check out the article in Slate.