I’m working my way through the bestselling book, 언어의 온도, aka The Temperature of Language, and not everything is as it first seems. Take this excerpt:
“몇 해 전, 봄을 알리는 비가 지나간 스산한 저녁이었다. 출판도시에서 일을 보고 차를 몰아 자유로에 진입했다.”
자유. Ja-yu. It means freedom, it means liberty; it’s a word with a relaxed approach to things. In translating this line, I calmly attributed this word to the author’s description of her driving style, but I was still confused by the usage of ~로 and ~에 at the end of 자유.
When my S.O. checked my work and left a corrective comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Apparently 자유로 (自由路) is a famous road in Korea, one that runs from Seoul to Paju, which is a city ripe with publishing companies and considered the publishing capital of Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone. It’s known for being a place where ghosts are spotted, and it’s quite literally called Freedom Road. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a street, even though I’m familiar with 로 denoting a road rather than being used as a grammatical marker.
“A few years ago, the passing rains spoke of spring, and it was a bleak evening. I had work at the Publishing City, and I entered through Freedom Road, driving my car.”
There’s even a Liberty Street near where I live, and it’s a common enough name for a road; isn’t it interesting that my mind couldn’t make that seemingly obvious conclusion? This is why I love translation; this is why I’ve served as a translator for Humans of Seoul for two years now. There is always some new nuance to be uncovered, like buried treasure hidden in the silt of everyday conversation.