Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Expat Living: "Fan Dumb"

Fan Death!
Fanatical Fans Fancy Fatalities
(Image from Wikipedia)

My second column on Language has appeared in the Korea Herald. The print version graces the paper's edition this morning, but the online version was already posted at the paper's website yesterday evening. Again, some editing has occurred, which I accept as inevitable, and it's mostly innocuous . . . aside from one point that I'll note later.

If you wish to read the column as printed, you can -- and should -- buy the paper's hard copy at a newstand if possible, but those who cannot do that can also go to the Korea Herald website, but be forewarned. The site has one or two popups, and also does not allow me to link directly to my article. If you do go there, scroll down slightly and check the lefthand links for Expat Living. Click on that and scroll down however far is necessary for finding the following column headline:
[Jeffery Hodges on Language] Demystifying fan. death
My original headline was "Fan Dumb," a pun on "fandom," but I expected that to be altered (though I hardly 'demystify' fan death). I'm assuming that "fan" with the dot has been used to suggest an abbreviation. More on this point later. For now, you can read my original version:
Jeffery Hodges on Language: Fan Dumb
Despite my strenuous efforts to publicize the threat posed to humanity by electric fans, most everybody in the developed world still falls asleep on hot, humid summer nights in close proximity to those electrically powered, whirling blades of mortality, blissfully blind to the danger, perhaps never more to awaken.

Theories abound on how fans kill, but the empirical fact cannot be reasonably denied even though many expats living here in Korea stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the Korean truth that electric fans left blowing overnight can kill a full-grown, sleeping man.

I admit that I once stood among the stubborn scoffers, but what made me a believer, even a proselytizer for the truth, was a close brush with fan death in the late summer and early fall of 2006. Hoping to persuade disbelievers, I posted my experience online:
How can people doubt fan death!? Fans kill thousands each year, but most deaths go unreported because the fans are in different rooms. A little-known fact is that whirling blades disturb the ether pervading our universe, and ripple effects impair organisms up to 500 feet distant.

This summer, fans killed several of my son's pets. First a stag beetle died when our younger cat, driven mad by etherial ripples, overturned the beetle's plastic terrarium and fought the poor insect to death. Miraculously, the cat survived. Our eel was not so lucky. Driven insane by the whirling blades' insidious disturbance of the ether, it managed to flip itself from its aquarium -- through a tiny hole in the top!! -- and die. We found it on the floor . . . shriveled and dry. That could happen to you! Since then, two other stag beetles have died. Snails as well. And a goldfish has turned deathly white! Scary.

Thankfully, our cats and children have survived, but we are taking no more chances, especially now that our two fans have started altering weather patterns in our apartment. In these past two autumn days, they have actually been blowing cool air at night -- even without air-conditioning units attached! We think the fans are trying to freeze us to death, so we are putting them away in a closet, completely covered in bags zipped carefully shut to prevent them wreaking even more damage.
Nearly all non-Koreans reading this sincere, personal testimony resist the truth. Typical response: "You are stupid." Indeed, I have been called not merely stupid but also crazy, drug-addled, and ignorant. Even my scientific knowledge has been questioned -- yes, questioned, despite my master's degree . . . in history of SCIENCE!

More disappointing than personal attacks from non-Koreans, however, is my premonition of losing the battle, for one recent challenge comes not merely from another fan-death skeptic but from a Korean fan-death skeptic ridiculing her mother's concerns:
My mother used to awaken EVERY night at 3 a.m. to open my brother’s bedroom door because he slept with the ceiling fan on. Since he would never heed her advice about leaving the bedroom door open if he was going to have his fan on, she was horrified that the fan would SUCK the air from the closed room and leave only the empty shell of a human being as her son.
Such loving care -- careful love that only a Korean mother could bestow -- wasted on ingrates!

Yet even if I am losing against fan-death ignorance, I shall never, ever surrender. Why? Because fans are killers. Proof? Here comes proof in a language lesson. Why do you think they are called fans? "Fan" abbreviates "fanatic." You cannot trust fanatics. Trust no fan, either.

Jeffery is a professor at Kyung Hee University and can be reached through his blog Gypsy Scholar at – Ed.
That was my original version, and for the most part, it's been printed as is, with a few minor edits. The only substantive edit was a transitional phrase inserted after the large block quote about my own brush with fan death:
Back to reality. Nearly all non-Koreans reading this sincere, personal testimony resist the truth.
The phrase "back to reality" doesn't quite work. I can see why the editors felt the need for a transition following the block quote, but this particular transition seems to say that my personal anecdote was not 'real' -- and I didn't want to explicitly say that. Indeed, I would never explicitly say that about fan death! (Or almost never.)

And in fact, my anecdote was real. Everything mentioned actually did occur . . . although my febrile imagination may have contributed the role attributed to the electric fans, but that's a minor point.

Finally, concerning the headline, Demystifying fan. death, I suppose that I should comment on the abbreviation implied by the dot that the editors supplied following the word "fan."

My column plays on two different words spelled and pronounced exactly the same: "fan" meaning a device to propel air for cooling and "fan" meaning a person who strongly supports someone or something. I pretend that these are the same word, but they have different etymologies.

The former word "fan" stems from from the Old English word "fann," borrowed from the Latin word "vannus," both words referring to a "winnowing-fan."

The latter word "fan" stems not from "fanatic" (as I claim in my article) but from the word "fancy," which it abbreviates and which you can read more about at the online Free Dictionary at the entry "Fan (person)."

I felt that I ought to set that straight.

Labels: , , ,


At 5:45 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Fantastic post, Jeffery.

At 6:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Malcolm. I trust that I've made a believer out of you.

Long Live Fan Death!

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:06 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Indeed you have. In fact I've given up my martial-arts training altogether, and now just carry a small, battery-powered pocket fan in case I'm attacked.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

One must live by faith.

And by Eveready Batteries, that one ever be ready to batter somebody...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Scholar, I had some notion that one or the other derived from "fanny." Be that as it may.

I've said it before but it needs restating: 99% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes throughout the world have one thing in common. There was a rapidly whirling fan at the front of the vehicle.

I hate to mention this, seeing as how you plan to soon travel to the US, but. 99% of all fatal aircraft crashes have one thing in common, rapidly spinning fans are enclosed within the nacelles mounted somewhere on the exterior of the aircraft. Never mind propeller driven aircraft.

Indeed travelling by ship does not allow for some notion that one escapes the danger. It is well known that the Titanic had more than one screw (read:fan). So not even a fan submerged in water is less than dangerous.

Jeff, I'd suggest tou place pontoons on your bicycles and start your trip sooner rather than later.


At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Does the Herald have the capability the edit my "you" to "tou?")

I hope these parenttitheticals work.


At 8:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

It seems that fans are inescapable.


Are we staring into the receding face of an infinite regress?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not know that "fan" came from "fancy." Learn something new every day from the Gypsy Scholar.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Charles, I am also one of those who used to believe that "fan" derives from "fanatic," but in preparing this article, I learned differently.

As I must often admit, I learn something new every day (so I must be excessively ignorant).

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Hye-Jin said...

Hi. I'm new to your blog.

I'm Korean living in the U.S. People can laugh at me, but I'm also "Fan Dumb." :)

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for visiting, Rachel. From your icon, I'd guess that in your time in America, you feel yourself to be caught between a rock and a hard place, i.e., another rock.

Anyway . . . yes, one has to watch out for those fans! I keep warning the other waygooks, but they just laugh at me.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home