[ENTERTAINMENT]English Is Not as Important as the Tune

Home > Culture > Features

print dictionary print

[ENTERTAINMENT]English Is Not as Important as the Tune

"We belong together feel your love." "We rock and its no shock battle ground is where I rattle around; I'm gonna send ya straight to hell where you lose your soul and cell." Before jumping to the conclusion that the writer must be out of her mind, please withhold judgment and read on.

Believe it or not, Korean teenagers are proudly learning those ungrammatical, barely decipherable phrases by heart - the source being, of course, not their English classes but popular Korean dance songs. The first line is from the smash hit "Feel Your Love," from teen idols Fin.K.L, and the other is from "The Best" by H.O.T (no period at the end), which disbanded recently, leading to fan demonstrations.

Maybe the dissolution of the boy band H.O.T will benefit teenagers - at least insofar as their command of English is concerned. H.O.T continuously misled its fans with its lyrics: "Surviving lonely days only with my prays. Thinking about you in never dies just a memories. Still lies," from their song "Hwanhee." Also, if you pronounce the name as one word, "hot," you are totally out of touch. It should be read as "h," "o," "t."

When it comes to the group names, it gets weirder. Korean dance groups share a common penchant for naming themselves English-language names - that is, broken English.

Fin.K.L is an abbreviation of the following three words, Fine Killing Liberty. Don't even try to understand what that combination means, just take it as it is. H.O.T is at least more understandable and meaningful - it's a shortening of the phrase, High Five of Teenagers (despite the fact that its members are now in their 20s).

The name of another leading female group, Fin.K.L's rival, S.E.S, seems the most sensible - it comes from the first letter of the three members' names, Sea, Eugene and Shoo.

The problem with these monikers is that the fans, mostly teenagers, become comfortable with this misuse of English. The songwriters do not concern themselves with doing teenagers the service of providing intelligible lyrics. But why are they doing this?

The answer is simple. For Koreans, English signifies something fancy and stylish, just as Asian calligraphy - often regardless of what it actually reads - is something exotic to Westerners.

Not all Korean singers or dance groups are indifferent to standard English usage, though. Some singers born and raised in the United States are busy boasting about their English. But they have a problem with Korean.

Puzzling English phrases can be found everywhere in Korea. Even the large telecom firm, SK Telecom, can get away with "Made in 20" as a slogan for their cellular phone service called TTL. When you encounter misspelled or strange combinations of English words, don't get upset or annoyed. It may grate, but just enjoy the unintended humor. It's just like realizing you've been pronouncing Hyundai or Samsung wrong all along.

by Chun Su-jin

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now