from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #36: A Latin Question

with 2 comments

Any readers out there proficient in Latin? The unofficial motto of the Korean soldier is “Always cold, hungry, and sleepy.” I wanted to make a play on words with the motto of the USMC, “Always faithful,” semper fi(delis).

Work on the book is going very slowly but surely. I’m thinking about brushing up the first five pages to get ready to begin the agent search again around January 28th/29th, the sixth/eighth anniversary of my discharge/induction. I have about the first 60 pages in decent condition with about 200 pages of random episodes and notes.

Like I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions but I have set up my new goal for the book for the summer. I need to finish this book before I become a cliché and it becomes that book I’m eternally working on.

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2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for your New Year’s message! Happy New Year to you, and great fortune as you work on the book.

    I just went over to Google Translate which, strangely enough, has a Latin function. I first typed in “always faithful” to see whether it would render the phrase as “semper fidelis” in Latin, and it did. After that, I changed “faithful” to “miserable” — a single word that more or less captures the cluster of adjectives you mentioned above. The result was “semper miseri,” which looks fantastic to my mind, because “semper mi” sounds like the parodic counterpart to “semper fi.” You’d still need to check with a Latin expert to confirm that “semper miseri” is correct, but I have a feeling that it is.

    Kevin Kim

    January 3, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    • I actually did the same thing but I’ve had strange luck with Google Translate. Some things come out fine and some things come out as if one of my lower-level students tried translating it (they give up easily). Regardless, I appreciate your effort.

      I think I want to keep the lengthiness of the motto even if it becomes unwieldy because it’s practically a byword among soldiers here and really encompasses the experience. Of course, Korean winters are no joke but because they turn off the water heaters for 9 months of the year, the tap water is ice cold even during the peak of summer. It really feels like your skull will crack like ice when you muster the courage to wash your hair. The food is shitty and they never give enough (and they didn’t pay enough to buy enough snacks at the PX back then) so you’re perpetually hungry. And because there’s some guard duty or other at least every other night resulting in the loss of at least 3 hours of sleep in the middle of the night, you’re always tired and sleepy. In a word, it’s miserable but I like the unnecessary complexity of the statement.

      holdenbeck

      January 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm


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