Many Korean words have both a literal and metaphorical meaning, simultaneously. Metaphors help to express our understanding of the world. They add a vivid image and emotion to a sentence.
Have a look at common Korean metaphorical phrases, and think about how they relate to the literal meanings. You should find some such examples used in English with same meaning.
⓵ 놀고 먹다 [nolgo meokda]
to play and eat
놀다 [nolda] means “to play”, while 먹다 [meokda] means “to eat”. Together, this compound verb takes on new meaning, akin to “to live idly.” It expresses living in an easy, comfortable way, without having to work.
그냥 놀고 먹고 싶어요.
[geunyang nolgo meokgo sipeoyo]
- Literal meaning: I just want to play and eat.
- Translation: I want to live idly and just have fun all the time.
|놀다 [nolda]||to play, hang out||먹다 [meokda]||to eat|
⓶ 뒤끝 있다 [dwi-ggeut itta]
to have the back end of something
뒤 [dwi] means “back” and 끝[ggeut] means “end”. While it doesn’t mean the back end of something, its actual meaning relates to the end and conclusion of an occurrence. 뒤끝 있다 [dwi-ggeut itta] describes holding grudges or lingering on bad emotions after being in an unfavorable situation. 뒤끝 [dwi-ggeut] can also be used with 없다 [eopda], which means “not to have,” as an antonym of 뒤끝 있다.
정국이가 뒤끝 있는 줄 몰랐어.
[jeong-gugiga dwi-ggeut inneun jul mollasseo]
- Literal meaning: I didn’t know Jeongguk had the back end.
- Translation: I didn’t know Jeongguk was the type to hold grudges.
|뒤끝 있다 [dwi-ggeut itta]||to hold grudges||가 [ga]||(vowel +) subject marker|
|모르다 [moreuda]||not to know|
⓷ 거기서 거기 [geogiseo geogi]
there to there
거기서 거기 [geogiseo geogi] literally means “there to there,” which implies “more or less the same.” A나 B나 거기서 거기 [A na B na geogiseo geogi] is used to indicate that there isn’t much distance between A and B. It implies that A and B are pretty much the same thing.
숙제를 깜빡한 거나 안 한 거나 거기서 거기야.
[sukjereul ggambbakhan geona an han geona geogiseo geogiya]
- Literal meaning: There isn’t much distance between forgetting your homework and not doing your homework.
- Translation: Forgetting your homework and not doing your homework are pretty much the same thing.
|거기 [geogi]||there||숙제 [sukje]||homework, assignment|
|를 [reul]||(vowel +) object marker||깜빡하다 [ggambbakhada]||to forget|
|안 하다 [an hada]||not to do|
⓸ 차이다 [chaida]
to be kicked
The word 차이다 [chaida] originally means “to be kicked by someone.” In explaining a relationship with someone, it is used to indicate “to be dumped.”
2년 동안 짝사랑했던 사람과 만난 적이 있는데 결국 차였어요.
[inyeon dong-an jjaksaranghetdeon saram-gwa mannan jeogi inneunde gyeolguk chayeosseoyo]
- Literal meaning: I used to go out with a person who I had a crush on for two years, but I was kicked in the end.
- Translation: I used to go out with a person who I had a crush on for two years, but I was dumped in the end.
|차이다 [chaida]||there||2년 [inyeon]||two years|
|짝사랑하다 [jjaksaranghada]||to have a crush||사람 [saram]||person|
|만나다 [mannada]||to meet, go out with, date||결국 [gyeolguk]||in the end, finally|
- Calper.la.psu.edu. http://calper.la.psu.edu/sites/default/files/pubfiles/CALPER_Metaphors_Korean_StudentUnit_0.pdf. Published 2018. Accessed October 13, 2018.
- Humans of Seoul. Humansofseoul.com. http://humansofseoul.com/. Published 2018. Accessed October 13, 2018.
- Learning Korean with Humans of Seoul. Facebook.com. https://www.facebook.com/koreanwithhos/. Published 2018. Accessed October 13, 2018.