Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Beautiful Korean Words?

Dear Korean,

I recently learned of the word "마음". 마음 is a very interesting and beautiful word; it's often heard in K-pop songs. Are there other interesting words like it? My wife thinks 달콤 is a word with many meanings, too (though Google only offers one meaning: sweet).

Ralph


Very interesting question, but a difficult one for the Korean to answer with his dried-up sentimentality. So he will give this one to the readers. What are some Korean words you think are interesting and/or beautiful?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

32 comments:

  1. I'll go more on the interesting side. As a teacher, one aspect of Korean that I find very fascinating is how one Korean word will do the work of very different and very specific English words. For example 준비하다 ('to prepare'). The challenge for a teacher is to get students to realize that 'to prepare' has a pretty limited scope in English. In Korean '선물 준비했어요' is a pretty common construction, but in English 'I prepared a present' sounds very strange.
    This list can grow (재미있다 'to be interesting' though students often want to say 'to be fun' so you get sentences talking about crime dramas being 'fun'), so I will just stick with that example.

    As always, thanks for the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The word "끝" has to be the most perfect word for "the end" possible in any language.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, I love it. Such an evocative-sounding word. Even people who don't know Korean know what I mean when I say it.

      Delete
    2. I've seen it used as a valediction at the end of a letter I received from someone much older to a group around my age. Some of them thought it was rude, but I thought it was hilarious. At other times, he also used '이상' and '수고'.

      Delete
  4. I've always thought 기다리다 (to wait) just sounds nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whenever I hear 기다리다 it is always followed by 지친다 in my head. I listen to too much Kpop.

      Delete
  5. As an interesting word, I like 호환 (虎患, "disasters caused by tigers") for being a relic of the time when tigers were roaming around Korea, I suppose. But my personal favourite is 천지 (sorry, again from hanja, not pure Korean), because it doesn't translate well to my native language while only imagination limits its usage!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like words that use reduplication...통통하다 (tong-tong-ha-da, to be chubby), 딱딱하다 (ddak-ddak-ha-da, to be hard or chewy), 식식 (shik-shik, gaspingly). I feel like they often function as onomatopoeia for the thing they're describing...and they're always fun to say^^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 이어령, a Korean semiotician (whose books for schoolchildren I read growing up, at around age 8/9) wrote one of his series on the Korean language, and it really opened my eyes to the beauty of some Korean words. My mother has a PhD in Korean literature and taught in universities, and as a child I was under the impression that the Korean language was very "proper" and "formal" -- that is, until I realized that there were two types of Korean... Sino-Korean and true Korean. 이어령's book points out a lot of patterns in the "true" Korean language.

      One example he draws is onomatopoeia. There're surprisingly many of them used as adjectives and adverbs and they REALLY highlight the beauty of some Korean words. The sound of water dripping from a faucet can transform from 조르륵->졸졸->줄줄->좔좔->콸콸, increasing in implied heaviness simply via a change in consonant and vowels. The sound of stones hitting water can transform from 퐁당퐁당 to 풍덩풍덩 with changes to the vowels, not only changing the sound but also the connotation/meaning. Similarly, the sound of water/ocean waves can go from 찰랑찰랑 to 출렁출렁, the latter with a heavier and darker connotation.

      Delete
    2. (I wrote the above comment before I saw that someone already mentioned onomatopoeia. So, I hit reply here because I just had to add a point :) )

      Delete
    3. I love these types of words. Two of my favorites: 뒤죽박죽 (explained to me as messy or scattered) and 싱글벙글 (doesn't that match the sound that a smile would make?).
      I'm so glad I got to learn some new fun words today!

      Delete
    4. I like 둥둥, 두근 두근 and 팡팡

      Delete
  7. Speaking of 밥, there's a fastfood place by the name of 밥이답이다. I always thought that it was an ingenious name with such a delightful ring to it. bab-i-dab-i-da... yea, rice is THE answer :)

    And I never realised how final "끝" sounds. Awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cant' believe no one's nominated 사랑 -- not just because of its beautiful meaning, but also because it has such a pretty sound.

    A favorite song of mine says 사랑해요,사랑해줘요 ("I love you -- pleaes love me, too") and 그댄 나의 첫사랑, 내 마지막 사랑; 날사랑해줘요 ("You are my first love and my last love; please love me"); who could resist such a heartfelt request?

    And as for 사랑해 오빠 ("I love you, Oppah") -- there's the most wonderful utterance I've ever heard.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like 그리고. No particular reason... It's just fun to say.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The earlier comments are awesome. As for me, I've always liked 미래. It's just always seemed more lyrical and poetic than "future."

    ReplyDelete
  11. 바람, 다른. Just like the sounds.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 얄리얄리 얄랑셩, 얄라리 얄라
    위 두어렁셩 두어렁셩 다링디리

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh, and I love the mellifluous, polysyllabic sound of many native Korean words and phrases. In particular, I've always been partial to 아름드리나무/Areumdeurinamu ("big old tree"); and 푸르르리라/P'ureureurira ("will ever be green"). Such beautiful, rolling sounds!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'll say that in the vast majority of cases, native Korean words are nicer sounding than Sino-Korean words.

    ReplyDelete
  15. 거시기. Just watch 황산벌. "나가 출정전에 갑옷에 대해서 거시기한거 까먹지말고 병사들에게 거시기 잘하라고 단단이들 일러. 그렁께 이번 황산벌 전투에서 우리으 전략 전술적인 거시기는 한마디로 머시기 할때까정 갑옷을 거시기한다!"

    ReplyDelete
  16. My favourite is 고양이. I think it sounds more like a cat than the word cat. Slinky and smooth.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 미소 :) Otherwise known as a smile.

    I also like 소나기. All the more so after reading the story and actually getting drenched in one. But mostly, I just like the way it sounds and the images it evokes.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think my favorite work is 메롱, it is easy and fun to say.

    ReplyDelete
  19. One of my favorite words is 할머니 or grandmother. I don't know why but it sounds loving and warm like a grandmother (or Nana) should :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment is not going to make me popular here.

    I've got to say that I disagree with almost everyone. When I started learning Korean I was actually very deeply within an "I Hate Korea" phase, so that words like salang sounded disgusting to me, while all the onomatopoeias sounded ridiculous (doong doong, toke toke), and the language's most common phrase ("bap mogola") like the sound of someone hawking up an oozing wad of phlegm. The Chinese part of the language also, or 70-80% of Korean, seemed impossible to remember.

    Although I enjoy speaking Korean, and I like Korean a lot more now, I sometimes feel like I'm speaking a caricature of a language (ooga booga! chaw yoja doongdoonghago toketokehay!), since people usually use random onomatopoeias when they want to make fun of another tongue--Korean, with its "shulla shulla", a rough equivalent to "ching chang chong", is no exception.

    All the same, this post is about the prettiest parts of the language, and I have to say the verb conjugation "--inneeka", or "--imneeka", is easily the prettiest, especially when it's being used to say "because of", since that confused me for so long, and once I got it and started using it I felt like I had mastered the language, when in fact I still have a very long way to go.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Emailed comment from R: 정 and 우정.

    ReplyDelete
  22. 미리내, also known as 은하수. It means milky way. The first one is the korean original. The second is the sinokorean, meaning literally water of the silver river.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love 흐르다 because of its versatility.
    강이 흐른다.
    시간이 흐른다.
    음악이 흐른다.
    Isn't so much more accurate than the English equivalents?

    That said, I'm a bit of a feminist so I hate the word 집사람.

    ReplyDelete

To prevent spam comments, comments left on posts older than 60 days are subject to moderation and will not appear immediately.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...