Oxford English Dictionary Rides the K Wave with Great Korean Update


If you are looking for a way to describe your new love for K-dramas after watching Squid game, you could say you ride Korean wave.

The South Korean survival drama has exposed millions of people to Korean culture and is considered the greatest original series to ever release by Netflix. It’s # 1 in over 90 countries and for many people it’s their first experience with hallyu, or South Korean pop culture and entertainment.

South Korean culture has recently made its mark in the United States with a boom in Korean skin care products as well as McDonald’s BTS meal. Now he has inspired an update in the Oxford English Dictionary. OED recently added 26 South Korean words and revised 11.

Jieun Kiaer, associate professor of Korean language and linguistics at the University of Oxford, said the words were included because they are used so widely. “But what’s so important about it,” she said, “is that there was no precedent before 26 words of a language, a year ago, entered the OED. ”

Hallyu is more than dramas and music. It also includes food. Newly added food entrees include banchan, kimbap and japchae.

Terms such oppa and unni have been revised to reflect changes in their meaning as South Korean culture has spread beyond its borders.

Oppa, which was typically used by a female speaker to address an older brother, friend or boyfriend, has been revised to refer to an attractive South Korean male as well. And unni is used by a female speaker to refer to an older sister or a friend; it has been revised to also refer to anyone of any gender addressing their favorite Korean actress or singer.

All new entries in the OED update are not Korean words. Combat, a phrase often heard on K-dramas and variety shows, was added as an interjection to express encouragement and support.

Skinship is a combination of the English words skin and kinship and is used to express affectionate physical contact between parents and children, friends or lovers. K-drama fans might use the term to describe scenes between romantic leads, and K-pop fans use it to describe how members of their favorite band interact with each other.

So next time you watch a K drama like Squid game, you could spread the word by telling everyone how daebak It is.

You can find the words in the new OED update here.

Tien Le is an intern at the NPR News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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