What's The Word? October Edition

What's The Word? October Edition

Hear our take on the world's hottest topics, including the cultural background of the doll from Squid Game, a language learning-themed rom/com, and more.
October 14 2021

In the past month: Squid Game obsession soared, the NFL and Premier League football thrilled us, and Black History Month (UK) hit full celebratory swing. Oh, and we’re off Halloween shopping!

But in particular, these language and culture-related stories leapt out and grabbed us.


Squid Game star explains the creepy doll in ‘Red Light, Green Light’

Squid Game is on everyone’s lips. The South Korean survival thriller shows debt-ridden people competing in deadly versions of childhood games for a huge cash prize. It’s hit an unprecedented ranking as ‘most popular’ in 90 countries on Netflix – largely thanks to Episode 1 (‘Red Light, Green Light’) and the creepy robot doll that’s sent social media wild. In the game, contestants must move and stop as a giant, machine-gun-wielding robot doll announces the light changes between red and green... and eliminates anyone who moves an inch out of place!

On the Jimmy Fallon show, Squid Game star HoYeon Jung (who plays Kang Sae-byeok) explained that the doll is modelled off characters from Korean school textbooks: Chulsoo and Younghee – and their innocent childhood adventures.

“When we were at the school, there were characters–one is a boy, and one is the girl. The boy’s name was Chulsoo, and the girl’s name was Younghee and she’s the one.”

Who knew a creepy doll could reveal so much about innocent Korean childhood education!?




Microsoft billboard campaign puts spotlight on sign language



Imagine being unable to speak and then stumbling across a large billboard that uses your language? Well, this is exactly what happened to the 151,000 people who use British Sign Language in the UK. All thanks to Microsoft.

As the Drum points out, Microsoft’s OOH campaign (meaning ‘out of home’) placed electronic screens in all major UK rail stations with a 10-second video of a BSL interpreter signing the message:

“The more inclusive you are, the more innovative you can be. Together we can create a better and more accessible world for everyone.”

To us, the story stands out by showing the incredible connections and togetherness that language interactions can bring, even without sound.


‘Language lessons’ is the new heart-throbber we didn’t know we needed

If Halloween films aren’t your thing and you’d rather get cosy with heart-warming comedy/drama about platonic love, look no further than “Language Lessons”.

When Adam gets booked into 100 “Spanish immersion lessons” as a surprise, he’s reluctant. But then he develops an intriguing friendship with an online Spanish teacher called Cariño. Throughout the 96-minute film, we spotted the beautiful connections that are possible through learning to speak someone else’s native tongue and discovering more of their culture.

The film touches on some cultural differences between the US and Spain. And expect to laugh out loud as Cariño searches for the Spanish equivalent of “mansplaining” after Adam brings it up...

With a 96% Rotten Tomato score, this is a must watch.




Crazy for Korean! 20 new words added to English dictionary



The world simply adores Korean culture right now. K-Pop bands like BTS, Korean films like Parasite, and TV series like Squid Game are obsessing fans. Add to this, growing global interest in Korean food, fashion and beauty... and it feels like every day more people are getting an addictive taste of something Korean. And we love it.

As the Guardian reports, over 20 Korean words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary – highlighting the global Korean craze and reflecting ‘a shift in [Korean] language usage beyond the English-speaking world’.

Here are some of our favourite new additions:

  • Hallyu – The Korean Wave*: a.k.a. a fascination with Korean culture
  • K-drama – Korean dramas: television series
  • Bulgogi – thin slices of beef or pork
  • Chimaek – Korean fried chicken and beer
  • Mukbang – A video involving a person eating a lot of food and talking to a camera or audience.

We hope this news further boosts people’s chances of discovering more about South Korean culture and of learning Korean.


And that’s all for this edition of What’s the Word? Every month we round up some of the coolest things that are happening around the world and share them with you in the hope reading them will quench your language and general knowledge-seeking thirst just a little bit. Catch you next time!

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