The official etymologies of the PyeongChang 2018™ Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

It’s Mardi Gras, or the “dense, shiny meat removal,” as I’ve etymologized in the past. I trust many observers people won’t be giving up TV for Lent, what with the Winter Olympics going on.

Speaking of the Olympics, ski down some archives with my old posts from the 2014 competition in Sochi, Russia. I explored the roots of winter sports words, including skate, ski, luge, sleigh, curling, and hockey. (Lots of Old Norse and origins unknown.) I also looked at the histories of the winning medals: gold, silver, and bronze. (Lots of Indo-European, with a surprising place-name behind bronze.)

The 2018 games kicked off last week in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and besides the astonishing athleticism, inspirational stories, and show of global unity, there’s some very exciting…yes,etymology.

First there’s the official PyeongChang (as it’s so stylized) 2018 Olympic Games emblem, which symbolizes a world and games “open to everyone” with its imagery of ice, snow, and stars.

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2018 Olympic Games emblem. (

The PyengChang website explains of the box-like shape on the left:

The symbol ‘ㅍ’ represents the first consonant of the first syllable of PyeongChang in the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, and expresses the harmony of Heaven, Earth, and Man.

Of the star-shaped symbol on the upper-right:

‘ㅊ’ depicts the first Korean consonant of the second syllable in PyeongChang in Hangeul, and represents snow, ice, and winter sports stars (athletes).

The emblem for the Paralympic Games doubles the stars/snowflakes, fitting for its slogan of “Passion. Connected”:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.32.55 PM.png
2018 Paralympic Games emblem. (

Then there are the official PyeongChang 2018 mascots, the “passionate” but “trustworthy” white tiger Soohorang for the Olympic Games and the “warm-hearted” and courageous leadership of Bandabi, the Asiatic black bear, for the Paralympics.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.19.08 PM.png
Soohorang, the white tiger. (

Here’s the website again on the name Soohorang:

The white tiger, now the trustworthy mascot for the Olympic Winter Games in 2018, has been long considered Korea’s guardian animal. “Sooho,” meaning protection in Korean, symbolises protection offered to the athletes, spectators and other participants in the 2018 Games. “Rang” comes from the middle letter of “Ho-rang-i,” the Korean word for “Tiger,” and is also the last letter of “Jeong-seon A-ri-rang,” a cherished traditional folk song of Gangwon Province, where the Games will be held.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.20.07 PM.png
Bandabi, the Asiatic black bear. (

And Bandabi:

The Asiatic black bear or “ban-dal-ga-seum-gom” (the bear with a half-moon mark on the chest) symbolises strong willpower and courage in the Korean folklore. This bear now has been selected as a friendly mascot for the Paralympic Games in 2018. “Banda” is derived from “ban-dal,” the Korean word for the half-moon. “Bi” stands for celebration of the Games.

Winter sports, global unity, cute animals, and a lesson in the Korean language? That’s gold.

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