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Neologisms: The Coming of AgeUsing Neologisms is Common these days, but not so Sensibly Used.
  • Kim You-yeong, Park Su-jeong
  • 승인 2012.09.24 01:39
  • 댓글 186
  ▲ Neologisms associated with MB's policy were created during his first year's presidency.  
“Hey, Yu-young, her body shape is really ‘Zzen-da’ and she is a ‘Rae-al'’ ‘Bagel-neah’. Also, her fashion style is ‘Ha-eu-sil-jong’. It is really ‘Dot-nen-da'.” Can you understand these sentences? These mean, “Hey Yu-young, her body shape is so amazing and wonderful. She has a cute face having baby’s skin and voluptuous body. In addition, she wears a very short skirt causing optical illusion that she wears no pants. So her fashion style is really absolutely good.” If you understand question parts, you have a keen insight to trendy neologisms. These days, using neologisms is common in daily life and a form of everyday communication between people in their teenagers and 20s’. Most of young people are exposed to neologisms frequently by friends, internet, or broadcasting media.  

According to Wikipedia, a neologism is defined as a newly coined term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often created by combining existing words or by giving words new and unique suffixes or prefixes. Those words take on character of abbreviation, slang, buzzword, or vulgarism. To be exact, an abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase, made by leaving out some of the letters or by using only the first letter of each word. Slang consists of words, expressions, and meanings that are informal and are used by people who know each other very well or who have the same interests. Buzzwords are similar to slang, it is in words utilized by many people temporarily. Vulgarisms are unspeakable and low words, especially ones which are offensive ethically and sexually.

Neologisms usually don’t belong to a particular category. Some words are defined as slang or buzzwords. Buzzwords are not included in the neologism category. For example, “Men-bung” is new-word and buzzword which is popular among the young. It is abbreviation of “Men-tal-bung-gwui”. Korean people use it when they are out of mind. For older generations, it is likely to be heard as slang, but it is not viewed that way among the young generations. Neologisms are relative to users or the situations where they are used. In summary, they can be considered as new words in contemporary days.

In the 2000s, the terms “Jak-up”and “Eeul-jjang” really caught on and these are used until now. The original meaning of “Jak-up” is to work, but as Yoon Da-hoon, a Korean actor, used this word on one sitcom program as his fad word. It was used to mean “chasing girl”. So, “Jak-up” had had a new meaning and has been added to the standard Korean word dictionary now. Also, “Eeul-jjang” first appeared in around 2003. Before then, “Jjang” represented the chief. But the youth used this word abbreviating “Eeul-gul-jjang” which means ‘her face is the best’. So the word “Eeul-jjang” was a neologism and became a popular term nowadays.  

 In 2010, due to the “Secret Garden”, a popular soap opera starring Hyun-bin, the world “Ggo-peun-nam” was famous then. “Ggo-peun-nam” is the term abbreviated the word “Ggo-si-go-si-peun-nam-ja” which means the man who woman would like to lure. It contributed Hyun-bin to be referred as a “Ggo-peun-nam by many Hyun-bin lovers and “Ggo-peun-nam” Fever blows into entertainment world.

In 2011, “Ha-eu-sil-jong” was a very popular term. As was referred above, its meaning is a fashion style where a woman wears very short skirts or pants causing optical illusion that she wears no pants. As this term became popular, this fashion style became a trend in the fashion business, and short pants were hit with trendy girls.

Recently, in 2012, “Si-world” has become a common new word, from the popular drama “My Husband Got a Family.” In Korea, husband’s family is called “Si-deck” from the wife’s perspective. The woman’s mother-in-law is called “Si-eo-meo-ni” and sister-in-law is referred to as “Si-nui”, so “Si-world” means the world husband’s family lives in. It gained a lot of interest from many Korean wives and is used between them in their daily conversation.

Neologisms reflect the social atmosphere that people live in. Because of their widespread use, they take on the character of general language, so they can disappear or became mainstream language. If a neologism is passed down through generations, and has the right grammar usage, it can become part of the standard language, after acceptance by The National Institute of the Korean Language. For instance, “Sae-nae-gi” meaning freshman and “Dong-a-ri” meaning school club became standard language. “Sae-nae-gi” was a neologism at first, but it satisfied the acceptability level of mainstream language. “Dong-a-ri” is a compound of Chinese word. “Dong” means same, “A-ri” means shared interest. So these words are combined and “Dong-a-ri” signifies a group that some people are interested in same field. This term had been used for a long time, it became a standard word.

What are neologisms in the past? Like the present, there were neologisms for that time. But neologisms in the past are different from the ones in the present in terms of rates of word and main former. In the past, neologisms were made by public influencers such as the press and academia. For example, when legislative branch enact a special law, they sometimes use neologisms; in 2008, MB government carried forward the “New Town” business policy. People have used word “New Town” to explain MB’s policy at that time.

Now, neologism are increasing very quickly thanks to development of information technology such as smart phone, Internet, social network service (SNS) and increase of the population using smart phone. It causes Netizens (the people using Internet) or blog marketers to make new neologisms. These days, anyone can make new neologisms.

Also, the mass media such as broadcasting and newspaper affects viewer’s language use a lot. It plays an official role in being responsible for viewer’s language use. Regulating the language standard has become more difficult as broadcasting programs turn to commercialization and competition between broadcasting stations deepen. Staffs of broadcasters and entertainers use neologisms to amuse viewers. So, they sometimes use vulgar language. This has a great effect on the way people use language. Chung Yong-kuk, a professor of Communication and Journalism in Dongguk University said, “The increase of many cable TV channels causes the commercialization of broadcasting. Broadcasters have the experience to pursue for fun or to regulate the diverse neologisms. But, language used at broadcast program has the effect of “approval” of those words to viewers. And broadcasters have a much greater power than friends or Internet in influencing language use. I think, using neologism is fine in broadcasting programs, but they need to be careful for using raunchy and ribald words or sexually harassing words or words insulting human dignity.”



There are many advantages to using neologisms. First, using new coinages that have meaning only to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning, is believed to strengthen the bond between people who use them. Jang Kyung-rang from Dongguk University said, “newly-coined words are often used while talking with friends. Generally, they are very refreshing words with special meanings. So, when I naturally use them and understand those meanings, I feel a sense of belonging.”

Moreover, neologisms can be used as an effective marketing tool. When the product name itself is on the lips of people as a newly-coined word, its sales are increasing. As a result, it is directly linked with company’s increase in revenue. An example of this is “Googling.” It means Internet search through Google. It has been coined and become widespread during ten years of use, and now accepted as a common noun meaning Internet search. Through this term, even without using advanced technology, Goolge has been able to expand its search share. There is another example. This has been coined by Hyundai I’PARK mall, the biggest shopping complex in Korea. It is the urban entertainment shopping mall composed of various shopping, cultural, and entertainment space. When it was first launched onto the consumer market, it did not attract people’s attention. So, they coined the term “Malling.” It means shopping with entertainment, enjoying cultural and leisure life, but not limited to simple purchasing behavior. Through this term, I’PARK mall has been known as representative of a multi-cultural space to fulfill the needs of modern people in pursuit of amusement, unique value, and individuality.

Also, a neologism introduces the pleasure of creation. Language from previous times also used to be fun as forms of choruses and jokes, but thanks to the Internet, now everyone could be the person who may invent the next popular term. Sometimes, words can be coined when people need to explain new phenomena or feelings which are not explained with the existing words. At that time, it encourages people to do out-of-the-box thinking. On a long term basis, it contributes to the variety of Korean words. An example of this is the Korean word “Heol.” This word is a bit of slang and very implicative but a popular exclamation used in Korea about almost every situation. Especially, it is used when someone is slightly shocked or surprised or being expressive about something. It is like “Wow!” or “No way!” or “What theˇ” in English. Practically, this is a very effective word used to express the countless emotions with one syllable for young people in Korea.

Language is very fast in adapting to the changing world. It forms, changes, and ceases to exist according to the passing of time. Newly-coined words enter Korean from every area of life, where they represent and describe the changes and development that take place from day to day. So, if you study neologisms of the times, you can find out social characteristics or atmosphere of each time. For example, there is an example of the neologism “Downshifts” to show the change of leisure patterns and values. According to Wikipedia dictionary, “Downshifts” is a social trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce the stress, overtime and psychological expense that may accompany it. In the 1990s this new form of simple living began appearing. It emphasizes finding an improved balance between leisure and work and focusing life goals on personal fulfillment and relationship building instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success. Slowing down the pace of life and spending time meaningfully while not spending money wastefully are principle values of this philosophy.

On the other hand, there are certain disadvantages to use neologisms. First is “Language Divide.” It is to not easy to make communication work between the older generation and the younger generation because both generations use different kinds of words. This results from neologisms invented or used in the mainstream media especially, in dramas and variety shows. For younger generation, it is easy to understand, but for older generation, it is much harder to understand their meanings. Such language barriers may lead to embarrassment, depression and relationship problems. Thus, although some TV programs’ main viewers are young people, using many neologisms and providing subtitles for these kinds of words on TV should be avoided.

In addition, the use of vulgar neologisms is rampant. Vulgar neologisms are comprised of three expressions. First of all, there are raunchy and ribald words talking about the human body, especially women’s bodies. For example, the word “Kkul-beok-ji,” which literally tells “Honey Thigh”, means strong and sexy thighs that people want to lick like licking honey off one’s lips. This is a sexual harassment word to belittle women to make them feel shame and embarrassment. Next are words which insult human dignity. Racial expressions come under them. For instance, some Koreans belittle Chinese by calling them “Jjang-kkae.” (Korean pronunciation) This is a word of kindred meaning with “Chinks” in English. Lastly, there are underbred words. A Korean word “Gura,” which literally tells “Lie”, is included in that kind of words.


  ▲ Cho Wonhyong, a researcher at the National Institute of the Korean Language  

Cho Wonhyong , researcher of department of public language promotion at the National Institute of the Korean Language, said, “The use of vulgar neologisms is a serious matter which is certainly worth people’s attention. I think there are two reasons for that. First, nowadays, people do not take time for self-reflection about their own linguistic habits. Next, an atmosphere of sleaze and corruption now surrounds the society. It is especially serious since these expressions are used inordinately on TV which is responsible for promoting public interest.” He added, “I think that the use of newly-coined words on TV is inevitable, but if the neologisms are impertinent, it is right not to use the words. To solve language problems of the society at hand, workers in broadcasting have to choose the terms carefully and should encourage people to have correct and polite language habits based on its public- service purpose. And, each of us needs to pay attention to language issues and try not to use inappropriate and bad languages.”

Rita Mae Brown, an American writer who is best known for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle, said, “Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides.” Like she said, a language has amazing powers. It reflects the social conditions of the times and is used as tools of communication. In particular, it is axiomatic that a newly-coined word is efficient vehicle to reflect people’s thoughts and culture. And, because our language changes so rapidly, today’s words can very easily become yesterday’s words. In turn, this process provides a steady stream of language which implies public awareness of the issues at the times. Therefore, out of countless new coinages, we need to use appropriate, clear and comprehensible ones to form a desirable language culture.


Do you know these neologisms? - Introduction to neologisms that many people do not know

1. “Cresumer” - the term composing “creative” and “consumer”, it means the consumers expressing their individuality through expenditure not just satisfying the desire of simple consumption.

2. “Bu-ka-chung” - the abbreviation of “bus-card-chung-jeon”. It means to charge some money on the bus card.

3. “Hum-jom-mu” - the abbreviation of “hum-jom-mu-seo-un-ger”. It means, “humm, it is scary.”

4. ”Meformer” - the term composing of “me” and “informer”. It refers to the people posting every details about what they buy, what they eat, what they think, etc.

5. “Sam-po-se-dae” - “se-dae” means generation and “sam-po” means giving up three things. Because of the pressure on school expenses repayment, unemployment problems, it refers to the generations that have some money problems that they could not deal with. So, they give up three things: having relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend, wedding, and child birth.


Kim You-yeong, Park Su-jeong  tbfor700@dongguk.edu, happy2uy@dongguk.edu

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