A couple month ago, I wrote about how invested I’d become in Korean webtoons. If anything, I’ve become even more invested in recent months, after starting my part-time freelancing gig with Lezhin.
From a language-learning standpoint, this is actually great because aside from webtoons, I read mostly academic essays and literary fiction in Korean so, uh, I don’t have a great grasp on how conversational Korean sounds. I have no idea what idiomatic phrases or colloquial expressions are commonly used, much less slang; webtoons have helped me learn more about that world.
I also lurk in the comments, absorbing the brave new world that is Korean colloquialism and internet speak. That’s where I learned 고구마 and 사이다.
First, I present to you, choice comments from the Naver webtoon 옆집친구. These comments were for a chapter in which a third-wheel character was prevented from complicating the main couple’s hard-won relationship.
You might be able to guess what this means if you’ve ever eaten sweet potato or had a drink of Sprite (er, Chilsung Cider).
고구마 literally means “sweet potato.” But figuratively, it describes a frustrating situation or feeling being stifled.
In watching or reading something with romance, 고구마 could be used to describe a situation where the main couple’s love is thwarted, usually by something really stupid, like a misunderstanding or miscommunication. It’s that feeling of aaarghhhh! that you get when all you want the characters to do is kiss, but something happens to prevent it.
In other situations, 고구마 can be used to describe a feeling of frustration or your hands being tied. My teacher described it as a 체한 느낌, like when you keep having the same, annoying, circular argument with your boss.
사이다 refers to any kind of carbonated lemon-lime drink, like Sprite, Chilsung Cider, Mountain Dew, etc. Figuratively, it describes a sense of pleasant relief, especially after a frustrating situation (고구마!) has been resolved.
In a romance drama or webtoon, 사이다 can be used to describe a relationship that’s moving along smoothly or is finally reaching a satisfying, lovey dovey end after lots of pointless shenanigans (see above).
In other situations, I like to think of 사이다 as the relief you feel after a nice burp, or the crisp, sharp lemon taste on your tongue. It’s the feeling of 속 시원함 — both revitalizing and relieving.
I feel like my life is all 고구마 right now. It’s been 67 days since shelter-in-place orders were first issued in my county. Everyday I wake up with a sense of dread, rather than a sense of possibility. It’s all very weird. My thoughts go out to all of you.