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.

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LOL Fireworks Funny Korean Language

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 90 Day Koreanliterally? 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.

Conversations With Koreans: Learning Korean Can Be Laugh Out Loud Funny, Pt. 2

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9 Responses

  1. Bree says:

    Having never eaten chicken gizzard before, neither “gizzard” nor “chicken’s poop house” sounds all that appetizing… ^^ Fire flower! That’s so romantic! How did English ever get fire-WORK? What’s the correlation?!

    • Hallie says:

      I agree about the chicken gizzard. Never sounded good in English and the Korean definitely doesn’t make it any better, but I can say it doesn’t taste too bad.

  2. The poo fascination here is outta control!! 😉

  3. 아비어 says:

    Some of the simplest things can be funny in Korean. Like 물고기 (Fish) literally water meat lol. and 콧수염!! (mustache) literally translates to nose beard! hahaha.
    I think these simple words make learning Korean more fun and interesting and It helps with vocabulary memorization.

  4. steve talbert says:

    There is probably a poo fascination because that’s what happens when you eat the food

  5. Jarrod O'Sullivan says:

    I really like some of the Seoul place names. Translating them into English has made them really easy for me to remember, for example: 쌍문 (double door), 수유 (mother’s milk), 미아 (lost child) and, even worse, 미아사거리!. 용산 (I’ve never seen a mountain there, let alone a dragon) and 구산 – I’ve counted and there are definitely not nine.

    I also like the slang, even if it’s outdated. 당연하지 became 당근이지 which in turn became 말밥이지. But it’s from probably 2001, so if you say it to younger Koreans these days, they won’t understand.

    • Hallie says:

      Younger Koreans these days make words up all of the time so using words or phrases on them that they don’t understand is only fair haha. I like your take on place names. I had learned those words but hadn’t related it to the places and when you do that, it’s definitely humorous. ^^

What do you think?