hmm (asteri5k) wrote in omonatheydidnt,

Korea's worst English of 2009

Not all of these are unique to 2009, and really you could flip through television or the Korea Times and make some easy substitutions to the bottom five, but here are ten that made my head hurt this year.

10) Oh shed. Oops, that should be "oh shit," a phrase students say all the time when they're frustrated. Can't seem to pronounce it, though, and nobody really gets that it's not a word you should be using in class.

9) Unbelievable. I don't know how "언빌리버블" got started, but it's a word that crept into advertisements and talk shows with noticable regularity.

8) I don't care. This was a big year for songs with English catchphrases---Mista, Hot Issue, Sorry Sorry Sorry Sorry, Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo Peep Bo---and 2ne1 came out with a single that provided students with an especially annoying answer.

7) Comeback. In the K-pop world of singles and four-song "mini albums," "comeback" is used when a group comes out with their next song and dance. But, it's not a comeback if they don't go anywhere.

6) Gosship Gull. I'm pretty sure Koreans don't say this phrase with any regularity, but it's important to include the worst K-pop song of 2009 on the list. The song and video for Ranbow's "Gossip Girl" are bad, very bad, on a number of levels.

5) East Sea. Koreans are trying to change the name of "Sea of Japan" in a language they don't speak. 2009 saw a lot of ads pressing the issue in stateside newspapers, with Korean buyers pointing out to the papers and their readers the "errors" on maps. The "best" was in August, when singer Kim Jang-hoon bought out ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post More "correcting the errors" of Sea of Japan. In October, the Wall Street Journal labeled the body of water "East Sea / Sea of Japan" in an advertisement for South Korea, and Kim was elated. But his response on his website really should make you question why he's considered an authority on the English language and its usage when he couldn't get through a single sentence on his post without screwing up.

Hosted by

4) Ricetard. Perhaps the worst piece of Korean English in history. It's close to becoming a cultural phenomenon. Were it not offensive to use "retard" as an insult, the adjective "ricetarded" would get a lot of work. That it only hit number four lets you know how dire the situation is.

3) Oh my God. One could make a strong case for this being the most irritating English phrase used in Korea. It's not annoying because it's blasphemous or because I wasn't allowed to say it when I was a kid. It's annoying because it's yet another thing adopted into Korea divorced from any context, another example of using English for no fucking reason. When people blurt out "Oh my God" they're doing it not because of the weight of the phrase but because using English is silly. The overuse of a deadpan "oh mai gat" on the otherwise entertaining show "Rollercoaster" (롤러코스터) means the phrase will likely rank high on next year's list.

Hosted by

2) Sexy. This was #1 last year and was #1 for most of this year. There is a big difference between sexy as used by English speakers and sexy as used by Koreans, and indeed a difference between 섹시 and the true Korean equivalent. I recall a Korean coworker telling our elementary school students to strike sexy poses in an English class, though I doubt she would make the same request in more "pure" Korean. 섹시 doesn't really translate into sexual in Korean, and is used to describe a certain look, whether donned by children, models, dancers, or middle-aged people.

1) Loser. In November some Korean college student went on the program "Beauties' Chat" (미녀들의 수다) and said that short guys are losers.
Hosted by

The word and the episode became big news, and online retailers capitalized on sales by offering products both ironic and useful. After the episode we were also subjected to tons of people in the papers asking if they were losers, proudly proclaiming they were losers, saying women with no breasts are losers, and so on. The "loser girl" phenomenon---actually representative of Korea's netizen culture and the insecurity of its men more than its tendency to overuse English---didn't bring the word to Korea, but it did open up its use for many other situations. When I think about "losers," I think about Koreans who use English insults they can't pronounce. Using English slang makes you sound worldly and trendy, except when you can't pronounce the "l," the "z" sound, or the final "er."

Hosted by

source: blog of Korean English teacher & Korean Herald writer, Brain Deutsch
Tags: culture, list
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for members only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →