Sunday, February 03, 2008

Why don't they just say "매우"?

I have been studying Korean for a long time, but I still find it quite difficult to understand a group of young Koreans engaged in excited conversation, and one of the reasons it is so difficult is that they love to use slang. Here is a good example.

The word 매우 is a nice Korean adverb that means "very." I like it, but, for some reason, young Koreans seem to hate it because they have invented all kinds of slang expressions to replace it. Here are a few of them:
  • 대따
  • 대빵
  • 되게
  • 디따
  • 딥따
  • 억수로 겁나게
  • 억시기
  • 열라
  • 절라
  • 존나
  • 졸라
  • 콜라리
  • 허벌나게

I hate Korean slang because I think it is hurting the language, but I especially hate slang that replaces nice Korean adverbs.


  1. Wouldn't all language slang be the same?

  2. Hi Maureen,

    I do not think all language slang is the same. For example, I can think of one English slang word for "very" (it starts with an "f" and ends with an "ing"), but I cannot think of fourteen.

  3. I'm Korean.
    매우를 제외한 모든 말들이 비속어의 의미는 아닙니다. 저것중 몇가지는 비속어가 아니라 사투리입니다.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    You may be right, but I got the words from a book entitled, "국어 표현 연구 (정길남 지음)," which described them as being 비속어 (vulgar speech). Anyway, thank you for pointing that out to me.

  5. I agree that it damages the language as well. I think it's the media/internet (particularly the variety show programs)which leads young people to follow the trend (not that i am not young). I currently live in Australia and my little brother watches korean comedy show by a video. He came to Australia very young so he can't tell apart the slangs from the original now since 'what he hear is what he speaks'. I honestly think there should be regulations on these shows to control the slang words from spreading

  6. forgot to mention that I really like the adverb 매우.
    Another one I like will be 많이.

  7. I think that some slang can be good because all the different words have a slightly different feeling. Talking would be boring if you just said something was "very" good all the time. Even in English we have many different ways of saying "very"(ex:way, totally, freaking, etc.). I know that Koreans seem to love it when foreigns throw some 사투리 into their language. "겁나게 잘 했다!" can be much more interesting than just "아주 잘 했다!"

  8. In the case of 열라, 절라, 존나, 졸라, I'd say they're variations of the same (similar to the variations of the f word in English) expression. And while I do agree that some of them are hurting the language, I also agree with Chris on the fact that some of their uses make the expression more colorful.
    I've never seen 콜라리 before though, but then again I only lived in Korea for 13 years in total (I'm a native Korean).

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  10. It is only natual for slang to develop over time to express feelings in a way that everyone can understand with depth. I'm quite sure that "매우" and "억수로 겁나게" carry different feelings. And besides "겁(이)나게" isn't slang. It means "making fear come up" so much so that it is "fearfully" or "dreadfully" so. From a linguistic standpoint, it is very unusual to hear anyone criticize the use of slang, as it is commonly understood to be natural. Besides, the entire concept of "표준어" is flawed. 표준어 is 표준어 because the capital is in the center of Gyeonggido. There is no liguistic basis for what 표준어 is or isn't. If Busan was the capital 부산말 would be 표준어 and everyone would say 댓나 instead of 매우. Slang is okay in my book. Besides, there's no way to control it. Many older Koreans (45+) cannot completely understand conversations among young folks. So don't feel bad, you're not alone.


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