[TALKING TRENDS] '... geu japchae'

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[TALKING TRENDS] '... geu japchae'

Seo Jeong-min
The author is a senior reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
A photo caption headline featuring a well-known actor Ma Dong-seok reads, “Ma Dong-seok, cuteness geu japchae.” 
Jabchae? That's not a typo. The entertainment reporter chose to use the word, in line with a new trend. Although people know jachae, which means “itself,” “the very thing,” or “the definitive,” is the actual term that should be used, they instead use japchae, which refers to a Korean noodle dish. In this case, you must not forget to add geu, a determiner, meaning “the” in Korean.
So, “cuteness geu jachae” means “cuteness itself” or “the definition of cuteness.” 
"Cuteness geu japchae," on the other hand, would technically mean "cuteness the noodles," but of course that isn't what the reporter is saying. For young Koreans, who often swap similar sounding words to create new slang, "cuteness geu japchae" is an even cuter way of emphasizing that Ma Dong-seok is the definition of cuteness.
When you google “geu japchae,” you can see the most searched words. “Happiness geu japchae,” “healing geu japchae,” “autumn vibe geu japchae,” “cuteness geu japchae,” “shock geu japchae.” The list doesn't end.
No one knows when or why people started to use the phrase. In many cases, newly-coined words tend to come out of nowhere. You can find similar reactions to the word on internet communities. “I keep using the phrase only because it’s catchy,” “I know jachae is right but many are using japchae and I started using it as well, because it’s fun.”
On one online community, people started a debate on whether using the buzzword is okay. “It’s just wordplay. Everyone does that when they’re young.” “When those words add up, our children’s literacy will be hindered as time goes by.” Whenever we face newly-coined popular words, we need to think about this point.

BY SEO JEONG-MIN [meantree@joongang.co.kr]
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)