Monday, August 7, 2017

#85. 좆같다 -- That sucks

Here's a phrase that you will hear a lot from the Korean men (women tend to be a lot less foul-mouthed than men in Korea in general). When something doesn't go well, or when something that they didn't anticipate happens, they might mutter in anger and frustration:
"진짜 좆같네." (This really sucks.)
This vulgar expression and its derivations are one of the most common profanity that you will hear in Korea. While the Koreans probably have an idea of what this phrase actually means, most of them use it without really thinking. (That being said, please please please do not use this expression in front of polite company. You use it with your good buddies, or when you are really angry.)

Koreans all know that "좆" is a very vulgar slang word for "penis." However, this word appears a lot in Korean profanity, and it is likely that Koreans are almost never referring to a penis (or even thinking about one) while they are swearing using this word.  In formal writing, you should say "성기 (reproductive organ -- can use for vagina as well!)" or "음경 (penis).

A less offensive slang word for penis is "고추," which writes and sounds exactly like the Korea word for "hot peppers." By the way, one of the Korean proverbs goes: "작은 고추가 맵다," which translates to "the smallest hot pepper is the spiciest." Wait, what?!
 But once you start thinking about what this expression means, you will see that it's actually a fascinating expression! It's so fascinating that its vulgarity almost goes away (key word: almost).

When you are in a frustrating situation, by saying "좆같네" you are saying that this situation is "like a penis." How so?

Well, the situation is beyond your control, just like how you can't always control your penis. And despite the fact that it is beyond your control, you often get into trouble for failing to control the situation. Ugh! (Not that I'd know, I'm a woman, in case you haven't realized it yet.) So, many Koreans are actually unconsciously drawing a really interesting and hilarious analogy between two situations beyond their control.

You can also build on this analogy a bit further (actually, there are countless expressions using the word "좆," but let me postpone the other meanings to other posts, and stick to this one particular aspect -- the uncontrollability of your penis -- for now). Say that you are working with a bunch of people on a project, and you have been put in charge. One person in particular refuses to pull his weight, disagrees with the group, and is in general hard to control.

You could decide to badmouth him with the rest of the group, and one of the common expressions that you might choose to use is:
"아, 저 좆같은 새끼!" (Literally - Ugh, that penis of a bastard! Nuance - That asshole!)
Again, you would be more correct than you originally intended, in the sense that you made an unconscious analogy between the guy that is the source of your frustrations, and how your libido is hard to curb.

No one should be swearing like this in front of you, if they respect you. But unfortunately, you will probably hear this word every now and then. Instead of being offended by the vulgarity of the expression, maybe we could be secretly amused and give the offending party some credit for an (unwittingly) well-constructed metaphor!


  1. ㅋㅋㅋ Now I know what this means I will probably break into laughter when I hear this expression.

    1. And some Koreans will probably wonder why they are laughing, because they probably don't even think about it!

  2. Replies
    1. Yeah I never really understood the double entendre until I was older... haha.