Close readers of the results section may have noticed that three of the horses who placed in the first two races at Seoul yesterday all had the word “Girl” in their name. Filling out the placings around Wondergirl, Major Girl and Sand Girl were slightly more Korean sounding names such as Nagwon (which translates as “Paradise”) and Kkum Guerin (“Draw Your Dream”).
Racehorse names in Korea are a mixture of English and Korean – sometimes in the same name. Some names crop up more than others – “Jilju” is one such name, unsurprising as it translates to “Galloper” in English. Busan’s best horse, Areumdaun Jilju becomes “Beautiful Galloper” and Jilju Hara “Let’s Gallop”. Kkum or “Dream” is another, Kkumcheoreom is “Like A Dream” and Tiffanyuikkum becomes “Tiffany’s Dream”. Saerounbisul is “New Secret” and Saerounachim “New Morning”. Other words to frequently appear are Bongae (lightning), Teukgeup (Express), Bulpae (Unbeatable) and Dongja (Young Boy). Many grey horses have the word Baek for “white” in their name.
There appears to be no relation between a horse being domestically bred and having a Korean name or imported and having an English name – J.S. Hold was very much Korean and Dongbanui Gangja is American. In fact this website gets a lot of hits from orthographically challenged people googling for “Gangja”, which in this case is a variation of the word “Strength”. Dongbanui Gangja is one of those that doesn’t lend itself well to translation but the closest could be “Strength From the East”.
Some of the English names can be suitably elegant. Rainmaker and Ebony Storm were fine names for Classic winners in 2008. Others less so with Why A Duck and Max Is Cruisin keeping the names they had when imported. It’s not just the imports though as in the Winners Circle yesterday was Korean bred Free Woody (mercifully neither Hot Pink nor Erectus were in the field behind him).
On Jeju, almost all of the horses retain traditional Korean names which, shamefully is one of the reasons this site doesn’t type up Jeju’s results. However, there are plenty of horses such as Hanheolhwangbong and Chenmansonihaenbok at Seoul and Busan to keep the tongue twisted and the fingers busy. For purely selfish reasons, this correspondent would be quite happy for the rather blandly named Nice Choice to live up to his promise in the Triple Crown races later this year.
Not Lost in Translation…?
The names of some of Korea’s top horses seem to work equally well in English:
Myeongmun Gamun – Illustrious Family
Gaeseon Janggun – Triumphant General
Jeolho Chance – Perfect Timing (Ignoring the “Chance”)
Namchonuijijon – South Village King
Baekpa – White Wave
Baekgwang – White Light
*Most translations in this article are not literal but have been adapted to best fit their meaning.