why you should stan namjoon: his ability to manipulate and play around with the korean language
A little while ago, I asked a question about whether Korean music sounds like gibberish to non-Korean speaking listeners. Majority of those who answered said yes and for the most part, many just try to recognize certain phrases or the overall gist of the song when you are listening to it. Now this sort of got to me because as a bts fan, the members play around with words in their songs and they honestly have some of the most poetic/complex lyrics in the industry and it’s really interesting for me, a Korean-American, to be able to hear and distinguish that. But for non-Korean speakers, you guys can’t really do the same. An awesome example of this is Namjoon because well- he is just a genius, a modern-day poet. So, I’m going to try my best to try to point some of the word play in his lyrics out because I think you guys would find it just as interesting as I do!
1) 흥탄소년단/Fun Boyz
저 위 정상들이 보이지 일상에 상을 하나 더해 난 이상해지지 정상인 상태로는 정상에 못 가요 baby
trans: “You see the peak over there, right? Add one more prize to my daily life, I’ll get weird. You can’t reach the top by being normal baby”
In this verse, Namjoon uses the word “정상” which can mean two different things depending on whether you use it as an adjective or a noun. As a noun, it means “the peak” (like the highest point of something). But as an adjective, it means “normal”. In the first line, he uses it as a noun- asking a question if you can see it. But in the third line, he uses the word in both ways. If I were to translate the last line stiffly it would be something like: “in a normal state you can’t reach the peak”
In the second line, he also does another word play.
일상 is a noun that means “daily life” while 이상 is an adjective that means “weird” or “abnormal”. However, he also makes a math pun in the line. The first syllable of
일 which is the number 1 and the first syllable of
이 which is the number 2. So literally, if you “add one more” to
이상. Add “one more” to daily life, you get weird.
Also! Note the repetition of the syllable “상” (sahng) through out his verse!
고엽/ Dead Leaves
모든 낙엽은 떨어지듯이 영원할 듯하던 모든 건 멀어지듯이 너는 나의 다섯 번째 계절 널 보려 해도 볼 수 없잖아 봐 넌 아직 내겐 푸른색이야 마음은 걷지 않아도 저절로 걸어지네 미련이 빨래처럼 조각조각 널어지네 붉은 추억들만 더러운 내 위에 덜어지네 내 가지를 떨지 않아도 자꾸만 떨어지네 그래 내 사랑은 오르기 위해 떨어지네 가까이 있어도 나의 두 눈은 멀어지네 벌어지네 이렇게 버려지네 추억 속에서 난 또 어려지네
trans: “As if every autumn leaf has fallen, as if everything that seemed to last forever is falling away, you’re my fifth season. Even if I try to see you, I can’t. Look, you’re still blue to me. Even if our hearts do not walk, they walk instinctively. Our lingering affections, like laundry, hang piece by piece. Only the crimson memories fall above my dirty self. Even if I do not shake my branch, it keeps on falling. Sure, for my love to ascend- it falls. Even if I’m near by, my two eyes grow further- they’re falling away. Like this, I’m being thrown away. I become young again inside my memories.”
Not only is his entire verse extremely poetic with his usage of analogies and personification and overall language but another thing that you have to make notice of is the fact that he raps in alphabetical order.
From the line 마음은 걷지 않아도 저절로 걸어지네 down, the verbs at the end of the lines follow alphabetical order.
The part of the Korean alphabet he uses is (from left to right) ㄱㄴㄷㄹㅁㅂㅅㅇ. Order-wise, and not by actual sound, its equivalent to the English alphabet would be abcdefgh.
Now pay attention to the first consonant of the first syllable of the last word of each line.
, 널 어지네
, 덜 어지네
, 떨 어지네
, 버 려지네
*ㄸ is a double consonant, meaning that it’s the stronger sound of ㄷ. In some alphabets, the double consonants come after its single consonant- meaning that Namjoon was still technically following Korean alphabetical order
One more thing to note is his repetition of the verb ending “-네”. This is typically used when the speaker is just taking notice of something and it implies that they have been taken aback by whatever has happened. For example, if you haven’t seen somebody in a long time, you might say something like “You’ve gotten prettier/more handsome”. In Korean, you would use the verb ending
“네” for this situation and say something along the lines of “__ 예뻐졌네” or “__ 더잘생겨졌네”
So similarly, in this verse, it’s as if Namjoon is first discovering that hearts will walk instinctively, that his lingering affections hang piece by piece, that his love must fall in order to ascend, that he is becoming young inside his memories, and so on and so forth. It’s slight, but it adds a new level of depth to how you interpret his lyrics.
난 세상을 이해하기 위해 사는데 세상은 날 이해한 적이 없어 왜 아니 딱 절반이 모자라 날 해하려 하잖아
trans: “I live to understand the world, but the world has never understood me- why? No, precisely one half is missing. It’s trying to hurt me.”
In this verse, Namjoon uses the verb 이해 which means “to understand”. When he says “precisely one half is missing”, he literally meant one half of 이해 which is 해. The verb 해하다 means “to hurt/injure” which is why he’s saying that “it’s (the world) is trying to hurt me.” The world lacks one half of understanding him, which is why it’s trying to harm him.
Again, another thing I’d like to talk about is how he says 날 해하려 하잖아. Typically, the verb ending “하잖아” is used when you want the person/people you’re addressing to take notice of something. So, for example, if you’re craving something when you just ate- typically your friend would say something like “but we just ate!” And if you’re talking in Korean, it would be here that your friend would use the verb ending 하잖아 and use the phrase “방금 먹었잖아!” (you just ate!)
By saying 날 해하려 하잖아, it’s as if Namjoon is asking us to see that the world is trying to hurt him, it’s as if he’s implying “can’t you see this?” So it adds a whole entire new spectrum of emotion to his lyrics and I just wanted you guys to clearly hear the song the way he wrote it.
I miss her man, I miss her so much. But how the hell do I tell her that?”, my friend asked me once. It might have been the stupidest question I had ever heard because the answer was so obvious. “You do not tell her, you show her. Show her that you care and show her that her presence makes your day better.
It is so easy to say things but taking actions is the hardest part. // ck.writes