Powered by RedCircle
시즌 3, 14화. 왜 한국 사람들은 가끔 다른 사람을 귀신이라고 불러요?
S3 EP14. Why do Korean people sometimes call other people a ghost?
안녕하세요? 잘 지냈어요? I’m your host, Vanessa, here at Korean Study Cafe Podcast.
Have you seen that Korean people sometimes call other people a ghost without hesitating at all? It looks a bit rude somewhat from your perspective, right?
The truth is that some idiom expressions are used very commonly in everyday Korean conversation. In fact, you better know these; otherwise, you might feel confused and flustered quite a bit when your Korean friends call you a ghost.
Actually, one of my students experienced this a few days ago, so she got pretty upset and also, at the same time, was wondering what the expression meant.
Then shall we listen to her message?
A few days ago, I went to a tteokbokki snack shop with one of my Korean friends, and she said she was going to introduce a different style of tteokbokki to me this time, so I was pretty excited.
When new tteokbokki came out, the color of the sauce was very different from what I used to know. It wasn’t red; rather, it was all black!
So at first, I was quite confused and flustered. But my friend kept suggesting I should try it. So I gave it a chance, and it was really tasty, and I instantly loved it. My friend then asked me to guess what sauce it might be, and I replied, “is it Jjajang sauce?”, then all of a sudden, she said to me, “너 완전히 귀신이다” You are totally a ghost.
It was quite a simple expression, so I immediately understood what she said, and I was struggling helplessly as it was quite a weird thing to say to a friend. So, I asked her what she meant, but she couldn’t explain it well enough to make me understand the real meaning. So, Vanessa, could you please explain what that actually meant? Was my friend trying to be rude to me? I really hope not…
Have you also had a similar experience? Or Have you heard of such expression on Korean TV shows or dramas?
In Korean culture, ghosts are usually considered existences that watch humans without us noticing and see what will happen to us in the future, and also have some power to manipulate us by making us do something or possessing us. Think of popular Korean Drama, such as 도깨비(Guardian: the lonely and great God, a.k.a. Goblin) or 오 나의 귀신님(Oh! My ghost). It is a familiar idea integrated into Korean culture.
Also, most Koreans believe there are good ones and evil ones. Of course, each individual’s interpretation can vary, but as a rule of thumb, the ghost perception of idiomatic expressions is used in a mentioned way.
If you understand how most Koreans see them, it would be much easier to understand each expression.
Then now, shall we check out the expressions together?
First of all, it’s 귀신도 모르다 Even ghosts don’t know.
The phrase is used in situations where you or someone does not know why the situation or circumstances turned out in a way that you or someone had not expected or predicted—resulting in very mysterious, weird, and somewhat creepy.
Remember when I said in the beginning that Koreans think that ghosts should know everything, right? It is used when you describe an odd or mysterious situation that such ghosts even may not know how it happens.
It is used when you want to express that “no one would ever know.”
Let me give you some examples to help you understand the expression better.
A: 내가 어제 산 주식이 10,000원이었는데 오늘 다시 보니까 갑자기 2,000원이 되었어. 어떻게 하루 만에 이런 일이 있을 수 있어? B: 그러게… 어떻게 그런 일이 있지? 그건 진짜 귀신도 모를 것 같아. A: I bought a stock at 10,000 won yesterday, but when I saw it today, it became 2,000 won. How can this happen in a day? B: Seriously… how can that happen? I don't think even a ghost would know.
Secondly, 귀신이다. You are a ghost, or 귀신 같다 You are like a ghost.
If your Korean friends tell you this, how would you feel? If you don’t know the real meaning, you might feel so uncomfortable and somewhat offended, right. But surprisingly, you can take this as a compliment. Let me explain the inner meaning of it.
As I explained earlier, to most Korean people, ghosts are the existence that knows what will happen in the future and also have some power to manipulate people in a way however they want.
In this sense, if someone uses this expression to you, it means, your certain talent or prediction unbelievably shines, or it is accurate enough to be compared to ghosts’ ability.
See? So if you are told this one day, you can take it as a compliment. It’s something you should feel great about, not necessarily offended.
To understand this idiomatic expression, let’s hear some examples.
ㄱ: 유튜브 알고리즘 완전히 귀신 같아. ㄴ: 왜? ㄱ: 내가 원하는 비디오를 바로 추천해줬어. ㄱ: I think the YouTube algorithm is like a ghost. ㄴ: Why? ㄱ: It recommended me a video of what I wanted.
ㄱ: 우와~ 맛있겠다! 잘 먹겠습니다. (냠냠냠) 음… 이 음식에 마늘하고 생강 넣었지요? ㄴ: 우와, 대박. 어떻게 알았어요? 귀신 이에요? ㄱ: 하하하, 사실 제가 요리에 관심이 많아요. ㄱ: wow! It looks delicious! Thanks for the food. (yum yum) umm… you put garlic and ginger in this food, right? ㄴ: Woah! Amazing! How did you know? Are you a ghost? ㄱ: Hahaha, the truth is I am interested in cooking.
Lastly, 귀신이 씌다 possessed by a ghost. That’s uncomfortable to say, even if you feel this way.
Well, if you see the literal translation itself, then yes, it is creepy to say. However, remember that this is just an idiomatic expression.
Koreans usually use this expression when we don’t know why or how we have accomplished something when we look back.
So when you don’t even understand why you did certain actions or behavior in retrospect, you can blame a ghost by using this expression because this one has the nuance that it wasn’t usual me who did such a thing; a ghost manipulated me.
Hahaha, when you feel so embarrassed about what you did in the past or even have some troubles with others because of those, use this expression. It might sound natural even though it can’t be a sufficient excuse depending on the situation.
Then shall we see some examples of the situations where you can use this expression?
ㄱ: 내가 20살이었을 때 라스베가스 카지노에서 5,000 달러를 잃어버렸어. 일단 게임을 시작하니까 멈출 수 없었어. ㄴ: 5,000달러라니… 너무 큰 돈인데, 도대체 왜 그런거야? ㄱ: 나도 잘 모르겠어. 귀신이 씌였었나봐. ㄱ: When I was 20 years old, I lost $5,000 at a casino in Las Vegas. Once I started to play, I couldn't stop myself. ㄴ: $5,000…that is a substantial amount of money. Why did you do that? ㄱ: I don't know. A ghost might have possessed me.
ㄱ: 저 회사 그만 둬야할 것 같아요. ㄴ: 왜요? 무슨 문제 있어요? ㄱ: 어제 부장님하고 일 때문에 크게 싸웠어요. 그런데 너무 답답해서 저도 모르게 소리 지르고 너무 무례하게 말한 것 같아요. ㄴ: 차분히 말하는 게 더 좋은데, 왜 그랬어요? ㄱ: 모르겠어요. 어떤 귀신이 씌였었나봐요. ㄱ: I think I might resign from the company. ㄴ: Why? What happened? ㄱ: Yesterday, I had a big fight with my manager due to work. I was so frustrated that I screamed without knowing it and may have been too rude. ㄴ: It would have been better to speak calmly; why did you do that? ㄱ: I don't know. A ghost may have possessed me.