Learning Korean Can Be Laugh Out Loud Funny, Pt. 2
While some words or phrases may be extremely hilarious due to how literally they explain something when translated in my own language, some are amusing due to the way they express something.
In the first installment of this series, I went over how a word like ‘wedgie’ in Korean was ‘his butt is eating his pants’ which is so literally what seems to be happening that now every time I see someone with a wedgie, I laugh out loud more due to the thought of their butt eating their pants than anything else. In this segment, let’s look at some more words/phrases that while aren’t so literally what’s happening, are still humorous for the way they express the idea.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking. These funds go to maintain the site… and if there’s any left over, to a bottle of red wine to go with dinner. ^^)
별똥별 (byul-ddong-byul): Koreans generally seem to have an obsession with poop. It’s discussed here much more than I ever heard it discussed back in the States and I’m pretty sure my mom would never be able to live here because of that. There are poop icons drawn on windows and stickers with poop swirls given to students for a job well done. What the fascination is, I can’t say, but it exists. The fascination even comes up when you least expect it. This word is shooting star which conjures up ideas of romantic starry night skies and perhaps a wish made at the sight of one. In Korean though, shooting star is literally ‘a star that poops a star’. It doesn’t sound so romantic or make you want to wish on one now does it?
불꽃 (bool-gote): My second or third year in Korea, I was hanging out on Mapo Bridge waiting for the fireworks display to get underway and I was staring at the banner hung nearby for the event. Often, my eyes will zone in on the English first because obviously, that’s the easiest for me to understand right off the bat so, I neglect the Korean that is there to read. While I stared at it, I noticed what the Korean was for ‘firework’ and since then, I tend to use the Korean literal version over the English when I’m speaking English because it’s so much more beautiful. Firework literally translated into Korean is ‘fire flower’. Isn’t that much more romantic than the idea of a star pooping a star?
닭똥집 (dalk-ddong-jib): Over the years my palate has adapted to Korean delicacies. Food that at first put me off, I now enjoy. It’s an ever changing thing though and foods that I didn’t like just last year like fermented sesame leaves, I now like. Because of that, my husband is always trying to introduce me dishes that I may not have tried or I tried before and I didn’t have a taste for yet. We have both learned that it is usually better if he doesn’t tell me exactly what I’m eating before I eat too because many dishes in Korean are just so literally translated as to sound very unappealing. This is one of those dishes. Koreans inspire shock when they tell you you’re about to delve into a ‘chicken’s poop house’ which is this term literally and it sounds completely unappetizing as soon as they do, but it’s actually the gizzard and really isn’t so bad.
Have you learned any Korean that made you chuckle when you translated it literally? What are some of your favorite words or phrases? If you’re looking to learn Korean, check out 90 Day Korean for some awesome resources. From courses and one on one instruction to tons of free material too, they are one of the best programs I’ve found.