노을, 마음에 드네
I was inspired by katie_k’s recent post about her favorite word in Russian, бессмысленный, and thought I’d add my own. For some reason I started hearing this word echo in my mind recently…I don’t know why it is that it resonates so much with me. It wasn’t written in a poem that I read about the end of an era; it wasn’t whispered in my ear as I watched the sun go down; nor does it sound like a word I know in the other fragments of language that move through my head.
Yet here it is:
… ㄴ = the consonant “n”, and ㅗ = the vowel “oh”, so the first syllable sounds like the English “no”.
… ㅇ = a placeholder, not pronounced; ㅡ = the vowel “eu”, a “u” sound pronounced like you’re smiling, with a long narrow mouth; ㄹ = “l” or “r” or somewhere in between. So the second syllable is “eul”.
Say them together and it’s a two-syllable word, no-eul. The glow in the sky after sunset, or before dawn. Dusk, twilight, these words are close. But isn’t it amazing that one word, 노을, can describe the morning or night? The glow is the same.
Actually, we all know that it’s not the same at all. Yahoo’s Korean dictionary defines scenes so particular that we might feel we’ve seen such things only in the movies:
- 하늘에 빛을 발하는 이상한 노을이 있었다 = There was a strange luminescent glow in the sky
- 하늘의 붉은 노을 = a ruddy glow in the sky
I have images in my head of the sunsets and sunrises that it evokes; they’re not necessarily the stuff of postcards, to be sure. I see the sun, the remnants of the sun, a sliver of the sun, a split second glimpse through a few high rise buildings; settling into the haze above the rough peaks off to the west; oranges, reds, yellows melting into a grey sea with the silhouettes of a few ships visible in the distance. Sunsets and sunrises, beginnings and ends, brought together in this one word, never ceasing to give pause for reflection and, yes, beautiful wherever, whenever I see them. Is that because when we’re looking at one, we’re also seeing the other?
노을. Sometimes shortened to the one syllable, “놀”, though I was reprimanded once by a friend with exquisite literary sense for shortening it so brutishly. Just saying the word is pleasurable, the way the vowels flow into each other, and the way the word ends (or should I say, the word sets) into the final ㄹ, a warm fade-away before the next word rises.
Here it is in a song, one of the first songs that introduced me to the Korean language, Yoon Jong Shin (윤종신 )’s “이층집 소녀” (The girl from the 2-story house). He sets the scene in the first line before he sings the song of his childhood love:
저녁 교회 종소리 노을에 퍼지고… (The sound of the church bells spreads throughout the evening dusk…)