It’s strange, but as an immature male who is learning another language, I’ve never really thought a lot about swearing in Korean… I know a few words, but not many, and I’m not even sure if the ones I know are real, or if people are just screwing with me and telling me fake words. Mostly, I learn bad words through my friend, Brian, who in turn learns them from the Korean players on his football team. So when I do learn a word, it’s never written down or put entirely in context, and I’m left to wonder whether the pronunciation is lost, like in Chinese Whispers…

I’ve never owned a Korean dictionary, either, because I use two textbooks when I learn (Korean Made Easy andFirst Step in Korean). Consequently, my grasp of grammar is decent enough, whereas my vocabulary sucks. The people who help me learn are generally co-workers, and random people I meet when out and about. Not many of them talk about genitals or excrement.

The problem is that I’ve always needed something to be written AND spoken for me to really understand. I’m terribly paranoid that people are either lying, or I’m too stupid and I’ve misunderstood, and so I like to be able to check. Consequently, the random bad words I hear tend to go in one ear and out the other. If I can’t see the spelling or fully hear about the definition, then I remain skeptical.

But then along came Google Translate and my new laptop with a Korean keyboard! Suddenly, any time I need to know a word in Korean, or find out an English meaning for something I’d otherwise simply guess, I just have to ask Google. It didn’t take long before I strayed from translating the functions on my computer to entering words I’d heard and always wondered about…

The most recent word I’d heard was 사정, which I’d been told mean ‘spooge’ or ‘semen’. It wasn’t listed in either of my beginner guides to Korean, and I had never heard the word in conversation, so I wondered if it really meant what I was told. I tried Googling a transliteration, but with no success. Then, with my discovery of Google Translate, I found the following:

사정

Dictionary:

noun

  1. bias
  2. circumstances
  3. circumstance
  4. consideration
  5. right and wrong
  6. assessment
  7. audit and inspection
  8. range
  9. ejaculation
  10. circs
  11. affair
  12. carry
  13. shot
  14. business

Holy crap.

Not only does 사정 mean what I’d been told it means, but it seemingly means everything else, too! 사정means ejaculation, circumstances, business, shot, carry, affair, bias… and RIGHT AND WRONG! 사정 seems to mean just about anything in Korean. One can only imagine the misunderstandings that may arise.

Of course, once I’d satisfied my curiosity for the word ‘사정’ I immediately entered a few more choice words in search of some valuable argument settlers. The word I most wanted explained was 죽죽사, which I’ve been told means ‘jerk off’, but is not entirely literal. It means, I think, more ‘keep going’ than ‘wanking’. But Google Translate failed me and provided only a crude transliteration.

Another word was 씨발, which I thought was spelled 시발. This, apparently, means ‘fuck’, but I also thought it meant something more like, but not literally, ‘motherfucker’. It’s usually followed by the equivalent of ‘dog baby’ for son-of-a-bitch, but again the translator was foiling my crude investigation. I think, though that it’s something like this: 씨발개새끼.

One word I remembered from almost a year ago, when a Korean friend tried to teach me the essentials, is 엿먹으라고, which means fuck you. Im sure the version Mina taught me was shorter, but Im not sure how it was spelled (엿먹어라 – maybe).

With those little puzzles finally solved, I pushed further and decided to translate all seven of those unholiest of words: George Carlin’s ‘The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV’

1.Shit젠장. Isnt this part of the name of a show on Korean TV that shows dumb Americans almost killing themselves in hilarious accidents? 젠장뉴스? I think so… So that would make the show’s name ‘Shit News’?

2.Piss오줌 (noun) or 오줌 누다 (verb)

3.Fuck 씨발. We already covered this one

4.Cunt –나쁜년. Apparently vagina is , so Im not sure exactly what the difference is

5.Cocksucker –뻐꾸기. I was pretty surprised that this phrase had a literal translation. Its not really a commonly used term, and so I thought it would have been translated as something like the fellator of penises’… Apparently not. (Penis is 음경)

6.Motherfucker –새끼. Ive also read that this means bastard, but usually when I hear this its from a really drunk or violent person, and so I assume its much harsher than bastard.

7.Tits –가슴. I thought that 지지 meant tits or nipples but apparently not. Im saddened by this discovery, as I spent most of my time in Vietnam singing songs about 지지s Damn.

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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

2 responses to “How to Swear in Korean”

  1. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. Gino Sohn says:

    “With those little puzzles finally solved, I pushed further and decided to translate all seven of those unholiest of words: George Carlin’s ‘The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV’…”

    It’s a bit ironical that George Carlins is the author above.

    George sounds a bit like 조지 (자지 Penis),
    Carlins sounds a bit like 깔린 (Crushed).
    Put them together; George Carlins sounds a bit like 조지칼린스 ≈ 좆깔린 (Fucked)

    Are you sure George Carlins is a real person or could be Korean taking a piss with the writer name?

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