Cussing in Korean (idea)
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Sahngnomah gijibae was something my mom used to call me when she was mad at me. I had no idea what it literally meant. I just knew it was bad. It's similar to the first time a person hears the word "bitch." You know it's bad, but you don't know that it literally means a female dog. At least, I didn't know that. I thought it just meant "bad girl" in a very obscene way.
I don't know why I never bothered to ask what it meant. I suppose a person should know what they're being called. But I never remembered to ask after my mom wasn't mad anymore. I certainly didn't want to ask at the moment she was calling me this. *shudder* My mom's a sweet person, but she has a temper.
Then one magical day, when I was watching Korean dramas with my parents. Sidenote: Korean dramas are similar to soap operas in the US, only not as cheesy or unrealistic. They more often have to do with familial issues or they are historical. Also, they don't last for 30 years like American soaps. They only last for about a year. Anyway, back to the subject. We were watching a period piece about this boy born into royalty (yangban), but was kidnapped and given to a lower class family (sangnom). "Nom" as a suffix to a person's name connotes that the person being referred to is, for lack of a proper English word, bad.
Not knowing what yangban and sangnom were, I asked my mom who explained the terms to me. Sangnom was not just a lower class family. They were basically dirt, reminiscent of white trash, hillbilly, hick, or redneck. They were the people you looked upon with disgust.
Thinking this over for a minute, I realized...Hey! Sangnomah gijibae has the word sangnom in it. Gijibae means basically daughter. That means...*gasp*...she's calling me the daughter of lower class dirt! Then I thought that that's a reflection on her. THEN I thought, does she know what she's saying??
So I asked her. Pausing for a moment - yes she knew what she was saying, but she doesn't really think about that when she says it. Odd. But then I thought, do we really think about what we're doing when we call someone a "son of a bitch." I imagine a lot of parents have called their sons that at some point. Especially the sangban type.