Track: Lazy | Artist: Son Ah Reum | Album: Lazy (single)

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Something that I appreciate about the Korean language is its tendency to assign playful words to nuanced definitions of common thoughts and objects, and Son Ah Reum’s Lazy is a great example of that.

The word “lazy”, directly translated, most often comes out as 게으름 (gae-euh-reum). However, the original title of the song in Korean is 빈둥빈둥 (bin-doong-bin-doong), which means something slightly different. There’s no direct word for it in English, but someone might use it to specifically describe lying around, doing nothing, and basically wasting air. Just translating it as “lazy” might get the job done, but loses an additional layer of meaning that didn’t survive the translation.

Another example: if someone is dawdling or falling behind, you could just say that they’re moving slowly, or 천천히 (cheon-cheon-hi). But it’s more fun to use the hyper-specific phrase, 느리적느리적 (neu-ri-jeok-neu-ri-jeok) that adds an additional bit of flair to your Korean diction, despite them both being translated as “slowly”. The latter phrase can often be found attached to things like snails, or caterpillars, or maybe a particularly slow-moving progress bar for a download from the Internet.

You might also see a person sobbing and describe their actions as 울다 (ool-da). But why would you, when you could say that they’re 흐느끼다 (heu-neu-kki-da), which paints a far more evocative picture, and as a bonus, is just much more fun to say? The Korean language is full of stuff like this.