[HEUNGBO'S GOURD]A Korean word English could use

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[HEUNGBO'S GOURD]A Korean word English could use

The Korean word yamche (pronounced yahm-cheh) is a word we should use in the English language. There is no word in English with a comparable meaning.

A yamche is someone with unmitigated gall, someone who has professional-level skills at effrontery. In other words, a yamche is a person who has chutzpah. "Chutzpah" is taken from Yiddish. "Chutzpah" is pronounced "hoots-pah" with the "oo" as in "foot" and the stress on the first syllable. To do the word full justice (and some would say, to emphasize its negative meaning) you should really pronounce the "ch" with that raspy throat sound the Germans make when they say "ach!" or the way the Scots pronounce the final consonant of "loch."

Chutzpah takes gall to new dimensions. The classic explanation of chutzpah, which you can find in Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish," is the one that tells the story of the man who murdered his father and mother and then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan. This man had superlative chutzpah and was therefore a yamche of the first order.

Of course, we could continue with the Yiddish theme and call him a chutzpahnik, making use of that handy "nik" suffix as in "beatnik," "peacenik," and "no-goodnik," but to maintain the international character of English and to keep the word short, I move that we officially declare "yamche" to be the English word meaning "a person with chutzpah."

These days, as the presidential election approaches, the need of the word "yamche" has become especially acute. During an election year, things are more interesting if the candidates have new names to call each other. American politicians also deserve to sling generous helpings of this delectable malediction around.

And nobody says that a yamche has to be an individual, either. Just watch the news and you will see that a corporation or even a national government can also be a yamche. Uncle Sam, for example, after more than a century of trying, has finally succeeded in becoming a truly world-class yamche.

The United States government is an extremely complex entity made up of a spaghettilike network of other lesser entities, so I used to think it was hard to say whether American efforts to achieve a status as an international yamche were a matter of policy or just a coincidental series of events. Now, under the Bush administration enough evidence has accumulated to justify ruling out the possibility of coincidence. Here are just a few examples of what Uncle Sam has done to earn this label over the years.

On Oct. 9 the International Herald Tribune carried an article on how the United States used to be one of the world's most flagrant violators of intellectual property rights, merrily publishing pirated books by the thousands, cheating their non-American authors out of their royalties while at the same time protecting the rights of American writers. Only in the 1890s, when works by Americans came to be sold in large quantities abroad, did the Congress finally come around to granting equal protection to foreign publications and inventions.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, the Pentagon, in collusion with the National Security Council and presidential advisers, developed a concept of "benevolent domination" of the world by a single power (guess who). A document the Pentagon circulated was quoted as saying that for the U.S. to maintain its superiority it must "sufficiently account for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership."

During the research that led to the deciphering of the human genome, scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a U.S. government research agency, applied for patents on more than 2,000 human genes in order to ensure that they do not lose any claims on royalties from future commercial uses of the genes, such as genetically based drugs. They are patenting something they did not even invent. It is like opening the hood of your car, "discovering" the carburetor, and saying, "Awesome! I'm going to patent this."

Now the U.S. seems determined to force a regime change in Iraq, going against the principle of self-determination.

There is one very nice thing about being from a yamche country like the United States: The media there are also yam-ches who feel no qualms whatsoever about tipping off the public to the government's or anyone's shenanigans.


The writer is a columnist for the JoongAng Daily. His e-mail address is gary@korealore.com.

by Gary Rector

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