Whatever you do, don’t call her ‘powdered grains’I am not a believer in nicknames. I've never come up with one for a friend. I’ve had a few myself, and they didn't always make me happy.
It’s common for Korean nicknames to make fun of someone’s name or appearance. But many of the nicknames of people I’ve known have had to do with food.
One of my girlfriends, an attractive host on a TV home shopping channel, is known as “Ms. Bosintang” among her colleagues because she can’t hide her appetite for dog meat soup. My friend is the complete opposite of animal rights protesters who don’t eat dogs because animals are their friends. She says she doesn’t like dogs as pets because she loves dog meat soup too much.
Her nickname is ironic when you consider her looks. Who would guess that an attractive TV host, wrapped in brand-name dresses and nicely perfumed, can’t let a season pass without sitting down in a grungy market for a bowl of dog soup? It’s a good thing she finally met someone who accepts her “barbarian” appetite. Her fiance in New York seems to be perfectly happy with her.
I can’t pass up the chance here to tell the story of my older brother’s nickname. He was dubbed “Cotton Candy” after he got extremely mad, to the point of shouting, at some friends from high school who tried to snatch his cotton candy away from him at an amusement park. I have no idea what was going through his mind at that time, but for some strange reason, my brother still gets very intimidated whenever I joke about this scandal. I guess for boys, nicknames always involve their pride.
A boy I knew in college was nicknamed “Fanta” because he would eat rice mixed with orange soda (which was a fad for a while). Another friend from college, Joo-yeon, was known as “Ms. Galbitang” because she always ordered rib soup. When this nickname became too much for her, she switched to sushi, which nobody made fun of. It’s interesting how much cultural hierarchy there is in what we eat.
As for my own nicknames, there’s not much to say, really. In middle school, kids used to call me “Misut Garu,” powdered grains that you mix with honey and water and drink. It wasn’t that I drank the stuff; the nickname just played off my first name, which sounds like “misut” with the syllables reversed. Whatever!
I've had a few other nicknames since then. In high school law class, my teacher used to look straight into my face and say “sue me!” while talking about some dull law cases. I’m just relieved that nobody, so far, has come up with a nickname based on my driving ― specifically, my notorious habit of bumping into stationary objects in the street, like poles or parked cars. In college, my friend Hannah tried to think of one, but to this day, she seems to suffer from a lack of creativity.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 1 cup of cold water, 3 teaspoons of misut garu, honey. Serves one.
1. Add misut garu to the water. Stir throughly.
2. Add as much as honey as you like.
by Park Soo-mee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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