08 October 2005

저기저 ("um, uh") and 뭐랄까 ("what shall I say")

The title of this post actually has nothing to do with it's contents. I blatently lifted it from the the entertaining Space Nakji at
It's a good read. She should write a book!

The topic of the day is actually "how to respond when paid a complement about your children or spouse." As my good e-mail buddy, Robin Kim of Southern California, has been discussing with me, this can be awkward in Korean culture because if you say "Thank you" or agree, it looks like you are kind of bragging, or complimenting yourself in some way-as if you had something to do with it.

So, all you people out there who are enmeshed in Korean culture or anyone else who has faced this situation - here is Sunny's solution.

Korean Person: "Your daughter is so beautiful."
Sunny: (thinking "Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you" but saying out loud) "What shall I say, she takes after her grandmother in that respect."
Korean Person: (Nodding sagely) "Oh".

I admit in the above scenario the grandmother I might secretly be thinking of would be my own beautiful mother, but, see how that deflects the attention to Halmoni without agreeing with or denying the compliment? And, no one can deny Halmoni's own beauty.

Here's another.

Korean Person: "I heard your son is a little genius boy."
Sunny: (thinking "We heard that too, from his teachers, from his test scores, etc," but saying out loud) "Um, uh, he inherited it from his grandfather."
Korean Person: "Really?"
Sunny: Yes, Halabogi is one of the most intelligent gentlemen around. People just don't realize it because he is the quiet type. Still waters run deep, you know."
Korean Person: "Yeah...what you said."

Or, my favorite.

Korean Person: "You're so lucky to have such a good husband."
Sunny: "His father set him a good example."
Korean Person: "Huh?"
Sunny: smiles sweetly and thinks "well duh".

Um, uh, what shall I say...it never seems inappropriate to praise the grandparents.


Mama Bird said...

Speaking as a grandparent, "You are positively brilliant yourself!"

Hannah Im said...

Hey, this is advice that I could really use! Good idea. I also learned a few new words from your post title. What Korean I do know is very proper. I know hardly any "slang" or filler words.

Allan said...

Oh that is GOOD. I'll have to use that. When people say, "Your children are beautiful" I usually respond with something like, "Yes, that's Cheryl's fault."

Sunny said...

Hey Allan, that's pretty good too.