Monday, October 10, 2011

Google honors "Hangul Day"

Everyone is familiar with the Google doodles, the clever and sometimes elaborate ways that Google changes their standard and simple logo to honor some event or the anniversary of this or that person's birth. (They're tough to make. My one, possibly slightly NSFW attempt is here.)

Well today is October 9, Han•gŭl Day, where in Korea the invention of the Korean "alphabet" is honored on the anniversary of its promulgation in 1443. Koreans are immensely proud of this achievement, which was part of a forward-thinking plan by King Sejong the Great to dramatically expand literacy (Chinese characters were essentially the only means of reading and writing prior to this) and thus allow the spread of knowledge among the masses on all sorts of matters from farming to statecraft to government regulations. If I remember correctly, this day used to be a national holiday, but I might be mixing it up with Arbor Day. (Wikipedia has a nice write-up on Hangul.)

Anyway, this year Google again paid homage to King Sejong the Great with a Hangul-themed Google doodle:

This one is all in Korean. It says 구글, which is the Hangulization of Google, roughly kugŭl. It's kind of nice how the last syllable ends up corresponding with the exact same final element in Han•gŭl, which refers to letters and writing systems. (The han part refers to the Korean people, 한/韓.)

You can see how the Google doodle has evolved over time. In 2005, the second o in Google was replaced by the ㅎ character, not for sound (ㅎ symbolizes h) but only for the similarity in appearance. They could have used the i•ŭng character (ㅇ, which represents -ng or serves as a soundless placeholder), but it wouldn't have been very obvious what they're doing.

In the 2008 Google doodle, the lowercase g is replaced by 글, which applies meaning while neatly replacing the gl with nearly the same pronunciation.

In the 2009 Google doodle, they took to stripping away any actual meaning and just used a mishmash of Hangul characters that roughly mimicked the appearance of the original Google letters. Were you to pronounce this, it would be t-j-m-p-yong-n-t, probably a swear word in some country.

In the 2010 Google doodle, the lowercase g is replaced by han (한), both for meaning and for its kinda sorta squiggly similarity. The lowercase g sees a lot of action this way.

Anyway, all this is kinda cool, but it's mostly just seen by people in Korea or those who use the google.co.kr search engine. Everyone else gets a regular Google, I believe.

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10 comments:

  1. Yet, something like Columbus Day which affected 2 continents, and slightly more people, isn't even honored by Google.

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  2. Well, for starters, Columbus Day is actually October 12 (this coming Wednesday). I don't know Google's policies on that (e.g., should they honor MLK on January 15 if his actual birthday doesn't fall on the third Monday in January when we get the day off?), but there's that.

    Has Google never honored Columbus Day? And are you saying that as long as they don't honor Columbus Day in those two continents, then they shouldn't honor Hangul Day in the local Korean market?

    I guess I should ask: Is Hangul Day associated with genocide and virtual extinction of many tribes of people and therefore shouldn't be honored? I mean, is it an even-steven kind of thing?

    And which two continents are you referring to? North and South America (those that were invaded)? North America and Europe ("discovered" and "discoverer")? Europe and Africa (which saw a huge portion of their population eventually go to the Americas)?

    I'd say Columbus's discovery affected four continents, adversely so for the people already there on at least two of them. By contrast, the rise of the Nazis only affected two, and one of those just a little. ;) Does Google honor V-E Day? Kristallnacht?

    Does Google honor the mass deaths in the mines at Potosí under colonial rule?

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  3. Now, you get the "point!"

    How does Google pick and choose who and what gets honored? And, how do they, or anyone for that matter, survive the instant tidal onslaught of knee-jerk backlash in this politically correct world that runs amok at the slightest hint of any idea or past action that does not fit into the supposed injured party's "superior" and "always right" world views? Cray, maybe I shouldn't have used amok as I am not Malay, if I really want to be pc.

    I have no problem with Google honoring the Korean language in the South Korean market, but I am reasonably sure that it was some Google employee at "google.co.kr" who came up with the plan as it didn't work its way into other, much larger, Google markets.

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  4. I have no problem with Google honoring the Korean language in the South Korean market, but I am reasonably sure that it was some Google employee at "google.co.kr" who came up with the plan as it didn't work its way into other, much larger, Google markets.

    Why would they promote Hangul Day in other markets? It's about serving their business interests. I think they do need to be sensitive to their consumers, so of course, political correctness must be a consideration. But it really is up to their discretion as long as they stay within legal/moral restrictions. It's not about advancing any political cause. That's not really the job of a company like theirs.

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  5. John from Taejŏn wrote:
    Now, you get the "point!"

    Well, I think I got that point before you wrote your first comment. But truth be told, it didn't sound like you were engaging in intellectual curiosity about what makes Google tick, but rather, making a statement critical about Google itself for failing to live up to the standards of conservative America, which collectively thinks that it's somehow un-American to point out the moral dilemma of honoring someone whose very acts of fame heralded an age of genocide and extinction of peoples.

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  6. Columbus? And the reason we should bother honouring him is...what? Well, let's see, he wasn't even the first European to stumble upon N. America, that honour belongs to the Vikings. Second, the fool believed to his dying day that he had made it to Asia. It was the Portuguese who figured out that they had a new continent(s) on their hands. In short, Columbus arrived at the party late and didn't even know he was at the wrong house. Yup, worthy of celebration.

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  7. Bringing up political correctness is WAY off-tangent to the topic. This is a post showing a light appreciation of how Google chose to celebrate a Korean holiday. Bringing up the fact that it was probably initiated by someone at Google Korea and not the main headquarters just sounds like kvetchpatry to me. "Don't be so happy. It was only the Korean office that would care enough to honor it." Why be such a wet blanket? Why rain on someone else's parade? Why can't you let someone appreciate something small like that? I guess some people are just addicted to complaining. There is a place for that. This is not the time OR place. People who look for the wrong in everything really show an inability for goodwill. But in this case, it is more about projection and how you feel and unfortunately, you made this post your target. Complaining a lot about things does not make one more concerned or aware of what is going on. It just shows that you have a bitter attitude. And, yes, I am complaining about your comment, but in this case, it is justified as your comment was way out of line.

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  8. Douglas wrote:
    In short, Columbus arrived at the party late and didn't even know he was at the wrong house. Yup, worthy of celebration.

    Well, to be fair, Columbus's accidental discovery did ring in the new era which eventually led to the formation of many countries, along with mass exploitation, colonialism, genocide, tribal extinctions, etc., etc.

    Like it or not, Columbus's story is part of the national origins narrative of many countries, especially the US. That Cristoforo Colombo of Genoa is an icon of Italian-Americans muddies the situation: this significant group has few icons in American history compared to the WASPs, and so his status is raised even more.

    Leif Ericson may have been there five centuries earlier, but in many ways he was five hundred years forgotten. Heck, the Chinese may have even beaten the Vikings, but what was the result? It was Signor Colombo whose "discovery" meant lasting contact that connects us directly with the US's origins as a nation-state and eventually our modern era.

    But it's not without controversy, and if Google chooses to highlight the positive and/or the obscure, then so be it. Frankly, I would have liked to see them do something to honor "Discoverers Day" (which is what we call it in Hawaii) with something to do with Polynesian seafarers.

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  9. kushibo, please post this comment instead of the first one. Too many typos in that one. Thanks.

    Mainly, I wrote what I did to see if I could get any bites in this really pretty decent blog that has been nearly dead (comment wise) over the last several months and writing anything even remotely negative or off-putting about South Korea seems to do that.

    kushibo seems to put in a lot of hard work here, so I just upset the apple cart a little to see what would fall off (or into it as the case may be).

    And, kushibo's last remarks said it best about the "discovery" of the Americas. If it wasn't Columbus, it would have been someone else. Hell, if the Mayans or Incans would have been a bit more advanced, they could have gone and done the same thing and colonized/plundered Europe, Africa, or Asia. They just weren't the right people at the right time with the right weapons and diseases to do it.

    And just think, without Columbus, would we have ever had the likes of Steve Jobs, Willis Haviland Carrier, Henry Ford, etc. to have given us the truly lives of leisure that we live in today even though millions perished and suffered because his opening up of the New World?

    Yeah, so every time I answer a video call on my iPhone, turn on my air conditioning, and drive my inexpensive car down the open road (not so much in heavy city gridlock), I do actually thank Columbus in some small way for ushering it all in.

    As some genius once said, "Life sucks and then you die." Well, at least thanks to what a lot of great people were able to accomplish by the opening up of the New World, my life doesn't suck quite as much as it could have.

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  10. John from 大田 wrote:
    kushibo, please post this comment instead of the first one. Too many typos in that one. Thanks.

    Unfortunately, John, Blogger doesn't give me the tools to remove that sentence.

    Mainly, I wrote what I did to see if I could get any bites in this really pretty decent blog that has been nearly dead (comment wise) over the last several months and writing anything even remotely negative or off-putting about South Korea seems to do that.

    This blog, despite getting about half a million hits by now, has never been a big generator of comments. Interestingly, when a site like The Marmot's Hole highlights a post from here, the same topic gets more comments at TMH about my posts than my post actually does (e.g., 32 hits at TMH vs 9 hits at MIAAP).

    kushibo seems to put in a lot of hard work here, so I just upset the apple cart a little to see what would fall off (or into it as the case may be).

    Ha ha. You do realize you're outing yourself as a troll, right? ;)

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