From hallyu to aegyo: Korean words make mark in Oxford English Dictionary

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Squid Game manicure sets are available internationally from a Malaysian salon.

Squid Game manicure sets are available internationally from a Malaysian salon.Credit:Getty

Huge as the hallyu has been, however, the Oxford has also slurped a Caribbean salmagundi, the other big flavour of September’s shipment. Lime, say, means to idle, an offshoot of limey, the Trinidad slang for foreigners, especially the US soldiers who enjoyed a leisurely war during their posting of the 1940s.

Lime-time, therefore, is downtime, a symptom of tabanca, that other Trinidadian delight. Imagine a post-carnival malaise. Heavier than a hangover, tabanca is also the melancholy of missed romance, the ache for what has passed without being realised, your lime-time dyed by a deep blue funk.

Adding to the colour is “like peas”, the Jamaican creole first recorded in 1959, applying to anything rife. Korean words, say, are like peas in the revised English glossary, crowding this year’s plate.

Though the other OED headline has been the surprise of some backdated citations, namely drive-in (a beast driven to market long before it was a cinematic place for skinship), and bath-bomb, an Illinois vogue from 1925, rather than the more recent self-gift idea of Body Shop catalogues.

K-Pop band BTS debuted at number one on the US music charts in April 2019, the first Korean band to do so.

K-Pop band BTS debuted at number one on the US music charts in April 2019, the first Korean band to do so.Credit:AP

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Yet the deepest shock surrounds anti-vaxxer. As modern as the mindset seems, Edward Jenner knew of such opponents in 1812. Writing to a friend, the father of the smallpox vaccine used the term “the Anti-Vacks” to tag the day’s sceptics. A press cartoon from 1808, sketched by Isaac Cruikshank, shows a gang of “Mercenary and Merciless Spreaders of Death and Destruction” decrying the science.

Covered in spots, the dead and dying strew the scene. Suckling mothers wail. Yet the Anti-Vacks brigade strides ahead, jaws set, tricornes erect, waving swords labelled “the Curse of Human Kindness”. The horror is almost enough to make you watch the relative sanity of a bunch of dwindling Koreans playing tiggy to stay alive.

davidastle.com; twitter.com/dontattempt