What is the Korean word for men
Nobody is sent to the devil here, but the dog is a popular curse word
In Korea there is a select linguistic politeness, but also a vital culture of coarse-vulgar scolding. It is not uncommon for a considerable temperament to be hidden behind the facade of emotional detachment.
Schimpfen, with its specific vocabulary, is an interesting cultural phenomenon. Because the manner of verbal jury shows, despite some similarities, a lot of local color and provides information about certain peculiarities of a culture. Probably all cultures know scolding. It should make up an important part of human communication everywhere and fulfill an important social function. The Internet has brought so-called strong expressions to the public and made them readable. Today we know more about where and how is scolded.
Since the purpose of scolding is usually to insult and humiliate others, the vocabulary required can only be a hodgepodge of what is considered dirty, stupid, disgusting, despicable and amoral. Wild curses and desolate curses are also part of it. If you look closer, you look straight down into the linguistic gutter. The ugly, destructive side of human interaction with one another lies condensed in it. These linguistic abysses testify to just how conflictual living together is. One often hears that scolding has a cathartic effect because of the strong emotions involved and is therefore beneficial for mental hygiene. But the judgment of being vulgar can never completely shake it off.
No religious fund
There is also a lot of wild ranting in South Korea. The coarse, vulgar swear words form a strong contrast to the elaborate linguistic forms of politeness. Looking at the nature of the vocabulary, word clusters can be identified that cover various thematic fields. This is where Korea resembles other cultures. Sexuality is one such cluster, which also includes a variety of names for the sexual organs of men and women. The second cluster is about human and animal excretions. The third includes curses of all kinds. "Lightning shall strike you," is a well-known example, or: "Heaven's punishment shall come upon you."
In contrast, in Korea, which traditionally has no monotheistic religion, no curses circulate as they are known in Christian countries. Phrases like "damn", "Lord God", "cursed", "the hell with you" have no corresponding expressions in Korean. The fourth cluster consists of phrases related to disease. You wish the others all kinds of diseases like smallpox, leprosy and typhoid, especially spicy in times of Covid-19. This variant has now been on the decline as epidemics have become rarer.
The fifth cluster has to do with stupid things that are accused of the others. Frequently used words here are "stone head", "head full of ink" or "idiot". The sixth has to do with swear words in which animals play the main role. Since this word field has certain peculiarities in Korea, it is worth going into a little more detail.
Not without animals
Humans' relationship with animals is not only ancient but also complicated, as we cannot survive without animals. Because we consume them and use them in many other ways. The cultural-historical side of this relationship, which also includes ranting, is therefore interesting. Animals played an important role in the development of human self-image because they served as mirrors.
On the one hand, we like to differentiate ourselves from animals, consider ourselves to be something better and say “beasts” to bad people, an attribution that clearly underestimates the cruelty of humans. Because, unlike animals, we can torture others with intention and calculation and therefore do this in a more refined, painful and systematic manner. On the other hand, we humanize animals, as fairy tales and fables show. Properties that we ascribe to animals are also applied to humans: smart like a fox, agile like a weasel, brave like a lion.
In Korea, some animals play an interesting role in connection with scolding. Certain qualities that are assumed in animals are used to insult or embarrass other people. To be called a vermin or worm is a gross insult in Korea too. Similar to Europe, the cow is considered stupid. A phrase that is often uttered is: "It would be better to recite a sutra into the cow's ear" when someone absolutely does not want to understand.
The pig is considered dirty, stinks and is voracious. “Worse than a pig” is therefore a tough verdict. The snake does not have a good reputation in Korea either, but has always been associated with women there. It is supposed to get out of there and sneak away easily. The so-called "flower snake" has recently become a bad name for women. This means women who approach men for the sake of money. The male counterpart is the swallow.
The most common scolding in Korea is “dog”. There is a wide variety of swear words that are considered serious insults. It might be helpful to mention one word in advance, namely «Saekgi». It generally means offspring of animals. Babies can also be called that, but only by their own parents, who thereby emphasize the biological bond. To refer to a strange child in this way, on the other hand, can be an insult.
Calling someone a dog is bad too, but calling them "dog saekgi" is even worse. The German version of "Hundesohn" would come pretty close, as the Korean word only applies to men. Like the cow, the dog is also viewed as inferior because it is said: "Any dog, any cow could come here" when the exclusivity is questioned. Somebody is worth less than dog droppings, one shouldn't say in Korea either.
If one asks the reason why the dogs received this inglorious position, the Confucian moral concept is mentioned. Confucianism shaped Korean culture for many centuries. Family and ancestor worship form the foundation of this teaching. It is therefore important to strictly observe the family relationship. In the eyes of the Confucians, however, the dogs got it on with everyone, including their own children, and they produce Saekgi, which was viewed as highly morally reprehensible.
It is well known that most animals do this, but the dogs were unlucky enough to be visible nearby. One can only guess how much contempt there is in the word “dog saekgi”. The number of dogs as pets is increasing, but that will hardly change their linguistic fate, which dogs in Korea have to bear with heavily.
The fox, or more precisely the vixen, doesn't have it easy in Korea either. There are many legends and folk tales in East Asia in which a vixen turns into a beautiful woman in order to seduce men and plunge them into ruin. During the transformation, only the tail, which the vixen knows how to cleverly hide under long clothes, should remain unchanged.
The nine-tailed vixen is famous and notorious, and no man can escape it. If a woman started an affair with a married man, she would be berated for being a vixen and wagging her tail. However, because of the emancipation of women and increasing sexual self-determination, this kind of cursing increasingly went out of fashion. Humans have imposed all sorts on animals. It's good that they probably don't know anything about it.
Hoo Nam Seelmann lives as a journalist and book author with a focus on Korea and East Asia in Riehen.
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