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Say What? 8 Bizarre Asian Expressions Decoded!

Have you ever watched an Asian drama and scratched your head wondering, “What did she just say?” or “What does that mean?” Well, you’re not alone!

Oftentimes, the dialogue in your favorite drama makes references to common sayings or idioms that only people from that same culture may understand. Here’s a handy run-down of some bizarre sayings that have appeared recently in our favorite dramas and what they mean!

Can We Love: “Do you think I avoid poop because I’m afraid of it?”

In Episode 17 of the Korean drama “Can We Love,” Ji Hyun’s evil mother-in-law (played by Lim Ye Jin) ransacks Ji Hyun’s room and says, “Do you think I avoid poop because I’m afraid of it?” The comment refers to a common Korean saying that you don’t avoid dog poop because you’re afraid of it — but because it smells! In essence, the mother-in-law is telling Ji Hyun that she’s no better than dog poop and she’s in for a fight in Ji Hyun’s divorce from her son!

You’re All Surrounded: “You don’t catch and eat the house rabbit.”

In Episode 12 of the currently airing drama “You’re All Surrounded,” Soo Sun runs into Pan Seok while out bike riding, and they share a snack together afterward. When Pan Seok asks Soo Sun if she and Dae Gu are dating, she vehemently denies it. She says her mother told her before she left her hometown of Masan to come to Seoul that “You don’t catch and eat the house rabbit,” meaning that you should never date anyone from work.

You’re All Surrounded and Wonderful Days: “Your stool is very thick.”

When Dae Gu refuses to answer a question that Pan Seok asks in Episode 13 of “You’re All Surrounded,” Pan Seok says a Korean expression that literally translates to “your stool is very thick.” But because it’s a difficult expression to translate and can mean a few different things all at once, this drama translates it as: “You’re such an a--.”

But in Episode 4 of the family drama “Wonderful Days,” when Dong Hee uses the same expression while arguing with his grandfather, it is translated here as: “Your sh— is big,” meaning “you think you’re better than me” or “you’re such a smarta--.” Because there’s no direct translation into English, both translations can be considered OK to capture a portion of the expression’s obviously sarcastic meaning.

Jang Bo Ri Is Here — “Have you ever caught and eaten a tiger?”

In Episode 23 of “Jang Bo Ri Is Here,” Chan Woo (played by Kim Ji Hoon) rushes to a restaurant after getting a call from his father saying there’s an emergency, but the ruse ends up being a set-up for an unexpected blind date. Caught off guard, Chan Woo makes it clear to the woman that he has absolutely no interest in a blind date with her. The woman tries to reassure him and asks him to sit down because she’s not going to “eat” (hurt) him. Chan Woo responds, “Have you ever caught and eaten a tiger?” He means that she doesn’t know what she’s up against (she would never be able to catch, let alone eat, a tiger), and he has no intention of cooperating with this forced blind date.

Wonderful Days — “So good that you won’t even know if the person you’re eating with dies!”

In Episode 2 of “Wonderful Days,” the Korean expression that “If two people eat and one person dies, you won’t know” is used. It means that something tastes so good that you won’t even notice anything around you — even if the person next to you falls over and dies! Dong Hee hears street vendors yelling out this expression as they’re trying to sell sweet potatoes, but he’s so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he doesn’t pay attention.

Big Man— “Sometimes even dog poo can become medicine.”

Proving that Korean dramas love their expressions involving poop, another one such saying is used in  Episode 3 of “Big Man.” Mi Ra asks her boss, Sang Ho, why Ji Hyuk was named president of one of the company’s divisions when he has no experience and is not qualified. Sang Ho responds, “Sometimes even dog poo can become medicine,” meaning that even something trivial can prove its value when necessary. The exchange alludes to the fact that the chairman has his reason for making Ji Hyuk president that could prove very useful in the end!

A New Leaf— “Clear out a ditch and catch a crawfish.”

In Episode 15 of “A New Leaf,” Seok Joo asks his best friend, Sang Tae, why he keeps coming to Seok Joo’s new office to help out when they don’t work together anymore. To which Sang Tae replies, “Clear out a ditch and catch a crawfish” and “Seeing lover while picking up mulberry leaves.” Both expressions mean to kill two birds with one stone. Sang Tae is happy to help out his best friend while also being able to see Prosecutor Lee, whom he has a crush on.

Trot Lovers— “Snake’s going to come out!”

In Episode 5 of the currently airing drama “Trot Lovers,” Joon Hyun is so happy when Chun Hee passes her first music challenge from their talent agency that he whistles while they walk home. Chun Hee tells Joon Hyun that the “snake’s going to come out” because of his whistling, meaning that whistling is bad luck because it’ll conjure snakes.

Which expression is your favorite? What others have you seen on Viki that you would like to have explained? Let us know!

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