Baxter and Sagart’s Revenge on Choi Soo-young’s Name (최수영)

Choi Soo-young (Korean: 수영, Hanja: 秀榮; born February 10, 1990), known mononymously as Sooyoung (Korean: 수영, Hanja: ), is a South Korean singer, actress and songwriter. She was a member of the short-lived Korean-Japanese singing duo Route θ during 2002 in Japan. After returning to South Korea in 2004, Sooyoung eventually became a member of girl group Girls’ Generation in 2007, which went on to become one of the best-selling artists in South Korea and one of South Korea’s most popular girl groups worldwide. Apart from her group’s activities, Sooyoung has also starred in various television dramas such as The Third Hospital (2012), Dating Agency: Cyrano (2013), My Spring Days (2014), Squad 38 (2016), Man in the Kitchen (2017–2018), Tell Me What You Saw (2020), and most recently in Run On (2021), So I Married the Anti-fan (2021), If You Wish Upon Me (2022), and Not Others (2023).

Choi Soo-young in May 2019. All imagery on this web page are derived from the Zeicher Corpus.

Soo-young (Korean: 수영, Hanja: 秀榮), her given name, means “outstanding glory” in Sino–Korean (Chinese loanwoards in Korean). On the other hand, Sooyoung (Korean: 수영, Hanja: 秀英), her stage name, means “luxurious flower petal” in Sino–Korean.

Most names in Korea are based on Chinese characters, and there are likely more people named Choi Soo-young in Korea, including matching Hanja characters. But this Choi Soo-young in particular (the one born on February 10, 1990 in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, South Korea) also has a sacred hanja whose meaning is unknown (it’s “崔祟禜“, pronounced as “최수영” in Korean), commonly translated as “the sacrifice of demons”. Due to these negative connotations associated with the name, Jehosheba Zeicher (name assigned to the person who owns and manages the “Wild Astronomer” Instagram account, conjectured to be the same person as Choi Soo-young) invented the ‘Ēl radical, where her name is written as 崔[⿰[⿱此神]卒][⿰[⿱此神]永] (IDS sequences are used since these Chinese characters were self-invented by Jehosheba Zeicher and are therefore not in Unicode).

Jehosheba Zeicher

What about the pronunciation and meaning of her name in ancient Chinese? Baxter and Sagart have attempted to reconstruct the ancient Chinese corpus (and therefore the inventory of Korean names). According to Baxter and Sagart, Choi Soo-young’s name (with the hanja 崔秀英) in ancient Chinese would be “Dzwoj Sjuwjaeng”, meaning “rocky blooming young grass”, quite different from the “luxurious flower petal” we’ve seen above.

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