S1 Ep6: 당신(You in honorific form) vs. Person’s name + 씨 (Alternative of You)

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Vanessa:       6화: 바네사 씨는요? 

Chris:       Episode #6: and you? (What about you?)

Vanessa:   안녕하세요? 크리스 씨! 잘 지냈어요? How have you been?

Chris:   네, 잘 지냈어요. 바네사 씨는요? I have been well, what about you, Vanessa? 바네사 씨, 저 질문 있어요. Actually, I have a question.

Vanessa:   Yes! what? 네! 뭐예요?

Chris:   Do you always have to add the person’s name with 씨 when trying to say you or to call/refer someone? I hope there is a simpler way to say it.

Vanessa:   I think I get what you are trying to say.  Do you mean it is burdensome to state a person’s name every time, so you wonder if there is a simpler way to express it?

Chris:  Yes, that is correct.

Vanessa:   Actually, there is a word that means “you” in Korean. You can say “당신” in more respectfully and “너” in 반말, informally.  However, the problem is that no matter how respectful it is, the word 당신 is rarely used in everyday life. On the other hand, 너, an informal term, is used relatively more.

Chris:   Why don’t people use the word 당신 as an honorific? Wouldn’t it be more convenient than calling someone’s name every time?

Vanessa:   Hmm… For those who speak English as their first language, it might feel that way. But actually, people who speak Korean as their first language are already too used to it, so I don’t think they feel uncomfortable.  And there’s a reason we don’t use 당신. The word 당신 has an exceptionally neutral tone that is not a completely respectful expression.  So, it is used when I refer readers (unspecified group of people)in writing.  However, suppose you use this word in everyday conversation, especially with strangers or elderlies. In that case, it can be interpreted offensively, so it is inappropriate to use it.  Therefore, especially when used incorrectly against strangers, the nuance can even lead to a fight.

Chris:   Is it to the extent that a fight might arise? It’s not respected at all?

Vanessa:   NoNo. This is a very exceptional word, somewhere between honorifics and informal. So, I recommend that you do not use it in everyday conversation. Just use mainly when referring to unspecified people in writing.

Chris:   Then, I really shouldn’t use strangers. I don’t want to get into trouble. So as an alternative, can I use the person’s name + 씨., Like  Mr, Ms., Miss.?

Vanessa:   Yes. But even the term “씨” is not a perfect honorific. It is not an expression used when calling someone higher than you. However, it is usually used only for colleagues or subordinates in official positions. It is not used to call seniors or superiors like bosses.

Chris:   Then how do you call them? What do you do when you are in a hurry if you can’t even call their name?

Vanessa:  There is always an alternative way. If they hold an official position, you can call the person by attaching their position with suffix 님. If it is a CEO, then 사장님, or 대표님,  for the head of department 부장님, for a lawyer, 변호사님, for manager 매니저님, for a professor 교수님 and so on.

Chris:   Oh, you call them by their position title with 님. What about when I need to call someone older than me, yet not related to work?

Vanessa:   In the past, for Mr. 아저씨, Ms. 아주머니, old male senior 할아버지, old female senior 할머니 were used, but nowadays, some people dislike to being defined by appearance or age. The common expression used today is “선생님.

Chris:   선생님? Doesn’t it refer to others as a teacher?  What if he or she is not a teacher?

Vanessa:   It doesn’t matter. Here, 선생님 is a term used to refer to the other person respectfully, and it is a widely used honorific even if the other person is not a teacher.

Chris:   Ah… I See. There are many expressions in Korean that have different superficial meanings and nuances.

Vanessa:   Yes, that is correct. Our culture values respect for others, so the Korean language has been greatly influenced by this culture.

Chris:   Got it, I learned useful expressions to avoid trouble with strangers. Hahaha, Vanessa, Thank you for today! So let’s practice today’s example.

Vanessa:   Yeah! Good!

Situation #1

Vanessa1: 여기에 누가 쓰레기 버렸어요? 3층에 사는 분이 두 분 중 한 분이라고 했어요.

Chris: 저는 아니에요.

Vanessa2: 어머, 거짓말하지 마세요. 당신이 그랬잖아요! 제가 어제 당신이 거기에 쓰레기 버리는 거 봤어요!

Chris: 뭐요? 당신? 지금 저한테 당신이라고 했어요? 지금 저랑 싸우자는 거예요?

Situation #2

Vanessa: 저기, 선생님, 여기 휴대폰 떨어뜨리셨어요.

Chris(old voice):아, 감사합니다.

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