Grammar, 사극 말투, Korean
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V + ㄹ세

As you all may or may not know, Sungkyunkwan Scandal is one of my favorite dramas; the books are equally entertaining albeit horribly difficult to read.  I’m still plowing through book one, but I have paged through a lot of it and read chunks here and there.  This bit is from the last chapter of book one (all copyright belongs to the author 정은궐).  If any of you are planning to get the books or watch the drama later, don’t worry, none of these passages should be spoiler-worthy.

Okay so this isn’t strictly 사극 말투 but since I’ve often heard it and read it in historical dramas/books, I decided to include it in here.  It’s important to note V+ㄹ세 is sometimes used among the older generation when speaking 하게체, but rarely (if at all) among the younger current generation.  Here we go!

Three scholars in charge of Sungkyunkwan’s student publication (문집) accost Guhro and physically restrain him from escaping.  This year, they intend on getting his contribution to the publication one way or another, even at the risk of their own lives.

“뭐, 뭐야!  이거 놔!”
“글을 주기 전엔 놓아줄 수 없네.  걸오!  글 좀 주게나.”
“죽고 싶지 않으면 썩 떨어져!”
“죽더라도 글을 받기 전엔 떨어지지 않겠네.  우린 지금 유서 써 놓고 이리 달려들었어.”
“무슨 글?”
“우리 셋이 이번에 문집을 맡았네.  꼭 자네 글을 싣고 싶단 말일세.”
“에잇!  내가 미쳤다고 그런 글을 줘?”

Later, Yoonhee marvels over Guhro’s writing.  Guhro gives her a short poem to read and tells her to take it if she likes it.  Yoonhee is amazed that the contents of the poem and the disposition of the writer can be so… different.  Yongha butts in… 

“이런 걸 두고 사기(fraud)라고 하지.  시 속에 지은이의 성품이 녹아 있기 마련이라더니, 말짱 헛말일세!”
“시비 걸려면 내놔!”
“싫습니다!  이제 이건 제 겁니다.”
윤희는 그가 빼앗기 전에 얼른 소맷자락 속으로 넣아서 감추었다.  용하가 평소와 달리 대단히 기분 나쁜 투로 말하였다.
“걸오!  난 왜 안 주는가?  내가 자네 글을 얼마나 갖고 싶어하는데, 왜 난 안 주고 여기 대물만주는가!  나도 사랑 시를 지어 주게.  나도 달란 말일세!”

V + 일세 is used in one of three situations.

  1. When you are letting another person know of your thoughts/opinion on some matter.
  2. As an exclamation, when you’ve realized something for the first time.
  3. When you are conjecturing/surmising or intending to do something.

I think the first and third examples fall more under situation 1.  (Though I do tend to hear this construction more when I would expect to hear 모모 말이야 in contemporary Korean.)  The second example falls more under situation 2.  Not to be mixed up with the 말일세 of the other examples, 헛말 refers to “meaningless/useless words” and the 일세 in this context functions more like 이네.  Note that this construction is used between social equals or to inferior – it’s practically like using 반말.

There you have it!  I hope you don’t mind the long examples.  I love the humor in these books and it’s a delight to read richer, rounder versions of the characters I loved so much from the drama.

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