Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What happens when you become a mistake?

ANSWER: You die.

The Korean sentence 잘못하면 죽는다 can translate into English as "If you make a mistake, you die," so mistakes can be deadly, such as when one cuts the wrong wire while trying to defuse a bomb.
잘못 is the Korean word for "mistake," so 잘못하다 means "to make a mistake." And 잘못되다 can translate as "a mistake was made" or "something went wrong," used when the person who made the mistake is not mentioned. 잘못되다 can also translate as "to become a mistake." And, interestingly, Koreans also use 잘못되다 to mean "to die."
Last night I came across the following Korean sentence:
"숙환으로 병석에 계시던 할아버지께서 어젯밤 잘못되셨습니다."
The sentence translates as follows:
"Last night, grandfather, who had been sick in bed with a chronic illness, passed away."
However, the Korean sentence 할아버지께서 어젯밤 잘못되셨습니다 literally translates as "Last night grandfather became a mistake."

I suspect that 잘못되다 was originally a Korean translation of the English expression "become a statistic," which can mean that something bad, including injury and death, as happened to someone.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Can older people be cute?

ANSWER: Yes, but don't tell them that.

The Korean word for "cute" is 귀엽다, which is a friendly, complimentary word that can be used to describe both the appearance of things and the appearance and actions of animals and people, but do not use it to describe the appearance or actions of  Korean people older than you, especially not to their faces, because it would be considered rude, as if you were talking about or to a child instead of an adult.

For example, you could say, "아기의 웃는 모습이 참 귀엽다," which means "The baby's laugh (smile) is cute," but you should not say, "할머니의 웃으시는 모습이 참 귀엽다," which means "The grandmother's laugh is cute." Even if you are older than them, some teenagers may not like being described as "cute."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Why do guys always seem to be the ones late for dates?

ANSWER: Maybe to give the girls more time to think about them. Waiting to meet a boyfriend or girlfriend at a bus stop seems to be a pretty common practice in Korea. Waiting for her boyfriend at a bus stop, the girl in this song kills the time by doing some people watching and thinking about the boy she will soon meet. I like this song, but I am not sure if I like the lyrics, or maybe I just do not understand them well enough. Maybe I would understand them better if I were a girl. "버스를 기다리는 사람들," by HAIL (헤일 "People Waiting for a Bus" 이제 곧 널 만나는 시간 It's almost time to meet you.
이마엔 땀 송글 맺히고 Beads of sweat form on my forehead.
해는 아직 놀고 싶은지  Maybe the sun, still wanting to play,
일찍 날 불렀어 called me out early.

때마침 너에게 문자가 As if on cue, I receive your text:
아이고 어쩌지 반대로 탄 것 같아 "Oh no! I seem to have accidently taken the wrong bus." 멍청이 그래도 괜찮아 "You dummy! But it's okay."
여긴 꽤나 즐거워 "It's quite amusing here."

할머니 품에 안긴 아기 A baby held by its grandmother
날 보며 방긋거리고 keeps looking at me and smiling.
무거운 장바구니를 든 어머니 A mother holding a heavy shopping basket,
청소시간에 벌어진 일들을 Cleaning people cleaning,"
재잘대는 저 소녀들 Young girls chattering over there.

버스정류장이라는 It's called a Bus Stop,
마을엔 사람들이 살죠 a small village of people.
사랑을 기다리는 Waiting for love,

멀리 그 사랑을 발견하면 that faraway love, when discovered,
언제 기다렸단 듯 will be like having never waited.
함박웃음을 With a big smile,

한 번 더 너에게 문자를 I send you another text,
어디쯤이니 내일쯤 도착하니 "Where about are you? Will you arrive tomorrow?"
아니야 거의 다 왔는걸 "No, I'm almost there."
백을 세고 있어줘 "Start counting to a hundred."
할머니 품에 안긴 아기 A baby held by its grandmother
날 보며 방긋거리고 keeps looking at me and smiling.
무거운 장바구니를 든 어머니 A mother holding a heavy shopping basket.
만난지 얼마 안된 저 연인은 That love only recently met
우리 같네 참 예뻐 is like us: Quite lovely.

차분한 하늘 아래서 Under a calm sky,
천천히 널 생각하면서 I ponder you.
사랑을 기다리는 이들과 함께 With these people I wait for love,
널 기다려 I wait for you.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What does 혼족 mean?

ANSWER: a tribe of loners

The slang phrase 혼족 refers to people who like doing things alone. The 혼 in the word comes from the pure Korean word 혼자, which means "alone," and the 족(族) is a Sino-Korean word that means "tribe," so 혼족 literally means "a tribe of loners," which is oxymoronic since loners do not associate as a group. Here the word "tribe" just refers to similar-minded people. Other similar slang words that describe what loners do are 혼밥, 혼술, and 혼놀.

혼밥 means "eating alone," with the 밥 being the pure Korean word for "boiled rice" or "food." 혼술 means "drinking alone," with the 술 being the pure Korean word for "wine," "alcohol," or "liquor." And 혼놀 means "enjoy doing things alone," with the 놀 coming from 놀다, which is a pure Korean verb meaning "to play."

For more information on the words, Wikipedia has a rather lengthy English explanation of them HERE.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

What does 입이 걸다 mean?

ANSWER: to have a potty mouth, which is one way to describe someone who uses rough speech or foul language

The 입 in 입이 걸다 means "mouth," but what does the 걸다 mean? In my dictionary, there is the verb 걸다, which means "to hang," and the adjective 걸다, which means "to be fertile." Since the phrase is 입이 걸다, not 입을 걸다, one can assume that the 걸다 in 입이 걸다 is the adjective 걸다 meaning "to be fertile. So, 입이 걸다 literally means "to have a fertile mouth."

The Korean word for "manure" is 거름, which probably comes from 걸다, the Korean adjective meaning "to be fertile." Farmers spread manure on land to make it more fertile. That would mean that 입이 걸다 could possibly be translated as "to have a manure mouth," which would be similar to the English phrase "to have a potty mouth." The word "potty" is another word for "toilet," which is where we deposit our "human manure."

Here are the two usage examples from my dictionary:
  •  입이 건 사람 a foul-mouthed fellow
  • 그는 입이 걸어 남의 욕을 잘한다. His mouth breeds ready slander. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Why do some Koreans fear turning 19?

ANSWER: Because it usually means they are seniors in high school, a stressful time for many as they prepare to take the all important college entrance exam.

Below is another song by HAIL entitled "Nineteen," an age that Koreans usually turn when they are seniors in high school preparing to take their college entrance exams. In the song, a girl is worried about turning 19 and talks to herself, and to "Nineteen," about the stress she is feeling. Since Koreans calculate their age differently, in the United States the girl would only be turning 18.

"열아홉"
"Nineteen"


나에겐 고3이 안 올 줄 알았어
I never thought my senior year would come,


선배들 앓는 소리는 그저 남 얘기였지.
That the complaints of former seniors would be mine.


갑자기 선생님이 등을 찰싹 때려
But suddenly my teacher is slapping me on the back,

수능이 며칠 남았는데 자는 거니
Saying, “Sleeping with the entrance exam just days away?”

열아홉 자정에 도착한 거야.
Nineteen arrived at midnight.

무한도전 하나 맘 편히 볼 수도 없는
Though “Infinite Challenge” is on TV, I’m too stressed to watch it,

보고 싶은 영환 예고편으로 만족해야 하는
And I must be satisfied with trailers of movies I want to see.

열아홉은 왜 꼭 힘들지
Why must nineteen be so difficult?

누가 정한 거야 이 시험은
And who came up with this exam?

하룻밤 자면 스물일 순 없나?
Can’t I just sleep and be twenty when I wake?

열아홉 꼭 나에게 왔어야 했나 하는 질문 말고
Instead of saying, “Why must Nineteen come to me?”

열아홉 내가 널 지금껏 리다렸다고.”
Say, “Nineteen, I’ve been waiting for you all this time.”

우리의 만남을 피하려고 했지만
“Yes, I tried to avoid meeting you,

이제는 내가 널 사랑해보겠다고
“but now I will try loving you.”

힘들어도 잘 부탁해, 오 나의 열아홉
“Oh, my Nineteen, though it will be hard, please guide me.”

별들이 사르르 녹아드는 밤에
As stars softly melted into the night,

책상 앞에서 말했어 언제 끝나는 걸까
At my desk I asked, “When does it end?”

힘내라는 말로도 위로가 되지 않는 이 마음은
When even words of encouragement are uncomforting,

열아홉 자정에 도착한 거야.
Nineteen arrived at midnight.

일 년 뒤에 난 과연 어떤 모습일까
I wonder what I will look like in a year?

이렇게 자라서 아무 것도 없으면 어쩌지
What if I continue growing like this for nothing?

열아홉은 왜 꼭 힘들지
Why must nineteen be so difficult?

누가 정한 거야 이 시험은
And who came up with this exam?

하룻밤 자면 스물일 순 없나?
Can’t I just sleep and be twenty when I wake?

열아홉 꼭 나에게 왔어야 했나 하는 질문 말고
Instead of saying, “Why must Nineteen come to me?”

열아홉 내가 널 지금껏 리다렸다고.”
Say, “Nineteen, I’ve been waiting for you all this time.”

우리의 만남을 피하려고 했지만
“Yes, I tried to avoid meeting you," 

이제는 내가 널 사랑해보겠다고
“But now I will try loving you.”

힘들어도 잘 부탁해, 오 나의 열아홉
“Oh, my Nineteen, though it will be hard, please guide me.”

우리 하나만 기억해
"Let’s remember one thing."

그 날이 지나도
"Even when that day was over,"

언제나 그랬듯
"As if it were always so,"

넌 눈이 부신 걸
"You were dazzling."

Friday, December 20, 2019

What does 용트림 mean?

ANSWER: "a dragon belch"

The Chinese character 龍 (룡/용) means "dragon," and the pure Korean word 트림 means "burp" or "belch," so 용트림 literally means "dragon belch," conjuring up the image of the belch of a fire-breathing dragon. It is used to refer to a big belch done in a haughty manner, sometimes to impress immature friends.

However, these days the word 용트림 is also being used by some Koreans who smoke electronic cigarettes (vapers) to refer to the blowing out of vaping smoke, which looks very similar to that of a fire-breathing dragon.

Be careful not to confuse 용트림 with 용틀임. Though the two words are pronounced the same and use the same 용 (dragon), they have different meanings. 용틀임 literally means "the twisting of a dragon" and refers to a decorative engraving or picture of a long, twisting serpent-like dragon. It can also refer to fire or smoke spiraling up into the air in a whirlwind-like fashion. The phrase 용틀임을 하다 can also be used to refer to someone ambitiously rising up to achieve some desire or goal.

The following video shows a woman teaching vapers how to do different kinds of "dragon belches" (용트림). I am not posting the video to promote vaping, which doctors are now saying can cause lung damage. I am just posting it to show what vapers mean by "dragon belch." Please do not vape.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

What does the Korean word 자몽 mean?

ANSWER: "Grapefruit." But can it also mean "love"?

The following is a song by the female singing duo "Hail" (헤일). The song is entitled "자몽," which means "grapefruit," but in the song the word 자몽 is used as a substitute for the word "사랑," which means "love."

"자몽" (Grapefruit)

그때 내가 마신 자몽차
I was drinking grapefruit tea,
뜨거움도 식기전에
when before it had even cooled,
나가자며 손을 잡아 끌어
you said, “Let’s go,” grabbing my hand and pulling me.
참을성도 없지
So impatient. 

진지해보이는 눈빛에
Seeing the seriousness in your eyes,
갑자기 숨이 쉬어지지 않아서
I suddenly became breathless.
목도리에 달아올라버린 볼을 묻고
 My flushed cheeks buried in my scarf
서서히 녹는다
were slowly melting.

자몽 숨이 점점 가빠와
My grapefruit breath became pants.
그렇게 가빠와 점점
Those pants increased more and more
너의 품이 점점 다가와
as your embrace came closer and closer,
점점 oh –
closer and closer. Oooh!

자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—I jamong you.
자몽자몽자몽 없인 못해
Jamong, jamong, jamong—I’m lost without you.
자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—you jamong me, too.
자몽자몽자몽 우리 이제 뭐해
Jamong, jamong, Jamong—now what else shall we do?

네가 고른건 자몽에이드
You then selected grapefruit-ade.
내가 꽂은 빨대 보더니
When you saw I had inserted two straws,
정없다며 하난 숨겨버리고
 you said it lacked affection and removed one.
"진짜 이렇게 하라고?"
“Really? Like this?”

한껏 나와있는 입술에
When your lips came close to mine,
갑자기 숨이 쉬어지지 않아서
I suddenly became breathless.
얼음 한조각을 입에 넣으니
A chuck of ice in my mouth
서서히 녹는다
was slowly melting.

자몽 숨이 점점 가빠와
My grapefruit breath became pants.
그렇게 가빠와 점점
Those pants increased more and more
입술이 점점 다가와
as your lips came closer and closer.
점점 oh –
Closer and closer, oooh!

자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—I jamong you.
자몽자몽자몽 없인 못해
Jamong, jamong, jamong—I’m lost without you.
자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—you jamong me, too.
자몽자몽자몽 우리 이제 뭐해
Jamong, jamong, jamong—now what shall we do?

자몽 자몽 사랑해
Jamong, jamong—I love you.
사랑이란 말은 흔해
The word “love” is too often used.
자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, so I jamong you.
내사랑 자몽아
My love is Jamong.

자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—I jamong you.
자몽자몽자몽 없인 못해
Jamong, jamong, jamong—I’m lost without you.
자몽자몽자몽자몽 자몽해
Jamong, jamong, jamong, jamong—you jamong me, too.
자몽자몽자몽 우리 이제 뭐해
Jamong, jamong, jamong—now what else shall we do?