Monday, May 15, 2017

#13. 이불킥 -- Looking back to the most embarrassing moment of your life

Any wise person knows that reflecting on the most embarrassing moment of your life right before you try to sleep is a terrible idea. You relive that moment, such as that moment when you felt the need to show some 허세, feel the blush creeping up your neck to your face, and you writhe lying on bed and burrowing into your blanket. UGH. How could I have been so stupid?

Koreans have the perfect word to describe your embarrassment. If they see you doing something stupid that they just know you will regret later, they might tell you:
오늘밤에 이불킥 할 각인데?
Remember that "-할 각이다" means "setting oneself up for something." Therefore, your friend might be telling you that "You are setting yourself up for 이불킥 tonight."

The word "이불킥" is made from two words: "이불," meaning blanket, and "킥," which is just the English word "kick." So the word literally means "kicking the blanket." That is, as you lie in bed tonight, you will be embarrassed by the stupid thing that you did, and in your flailing of embarrassment, you will end up kicking your blanket to vent your anger. Pretty appropriate.

The memories of that embarrassing moment.
Although it is not always the case, when an English word and a Korean word compound to form a single word, the resulting word is often quite humorous, especially when there was an easy Korean substitute. As a rule of thumb, the vast majority of formal Korean words are made up of Chinese or pure Korean, and when English or Japanese appear (there are two languages other than Chinese that influenced the Korean language the most, although we see some French and German influence as well), they are usually there for the humorous and vulgar (without being offensive) effect.

"이불킥" is one of these words that give off a humorous nuance ("kick" could have easily been replaced by "차다," but if you do that, it's not as funny.) While not offensive, "이불킥" is also far away from being formal Korean!

Below is a Cyworld (early Korean version of Facebook) post of a Korean student that went viral many years ago. The student was likely in middle school or high school, and likely a sufferer of 중2병. Many Koreans suspect that the writer of this post kicked many a blanket to compensate for his post below (translation follows).

Right this moment, I am slowly going mad.
I entrust my entire body and my soul to this headphone,

As music is the only drug
that this nation will allow me

This is me, right now. 

As a Korean reading this, you might say things like
저분 요즘도 이불킥하시겠지? (Do you think he still kicks his blankets?)
저거 생각하면 자다가 벌떡 일어나서 이불 걷어차실 듯. (I think he would wake up in the middle of the night to kick his blankets whenever he thinks about that post -- note that instead of using "킥," the speaker chose to use the corresponding Korean word "걷어차다.")
You can also focus on the fact that "이불킥" just means "venting your embarrassment on the blanket." Using this, you can be creative. For example, you could have instead said:
자다가 일어나서 이불 불질러야겠다 ㅋㅋㅋ (He should probably wake up and set his blankets on fire).

Feel free to experiment; Koreans are witty people, and they will appreciate your creativity!


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