Colloquialisms and translations question

I think colloquialism is the right term? I’ve seen in a fair few Kdramas now that what I would consider western terms are used. For example, in one drama they used the phrase “knocked her up.”

Would that be a correct translation, or is it used just to make it clear for English speakers what they were talking about?

I’m curious to know if a lot of these slang terms carry across the world or if it is just a convenient way to translate. Thanks


Now I’m wondering if you watched those dramas before or after English editing. I learned from my editing sensei @worthyromance to edit out such terms because they might be confusing or hard to translate for the international public. Of course, not all editors stick to the same rules.

I think for English natives, those terms might be so normal that most of them don’t even notice them as odd.

There are expressions that are similar in several (but not all) languages, but that is definitely not always the case. No other-language speaker would for example say, “say cheese!” when taking a picture. And I’ve never heard a literal translation of “knocked her up” in any language.

So whatever you watched was likely not yet edited or edited by someone who didn’t see the worth of correcting it. The translation itself is not necessarily wrong, but it might be less suitable for an international public. And that is something the staff subbers, who translate a huge part of our dramas nowadays, usually don’t think of.


The phrase “knocked her up” as a substitute for “I made her pregnant” is a phrase that is slang and in bad taste. It’s not quite vulgar but a lot of English speakers, myself included, class it as more-or-less vulgar. I’ve often found colloquialisms and slang in dramas that should not have such language. Sometimes, these things are also spoken by characters who would never use that kind of language. I’m not sure how this happens. Maybe it’s just another one of those challenges associated with English.


This is a very interesting topic! I understand what you’re saying, but I beg to differ. Yes, “knocked up” is not a very kind term, but it’s not exactly a “slang” term. In my language, Greek, there is an exact similar word, which is, let’s say an ukind, way to say that someone got someone pregnant. It can be used by an unsophisticated or uneducated speaker or if someone wants to be offensive. So, it can be used to show the atmosphere or the quality of the speaker. That’s why I don’t find it necessarily wrong. Maybe there is something similar in the source language (Korean) and that was what they wanted to show.


As someone who is often an English editor but also an Other Language moderator/editor, I am very keen to avoid excessive regional colloquialisms that, for instance, would be familiar to US viewers but not UK or Australian viewers, and even less to international viewers.
We must not forget that not only native English-language viewers watch content with English subtitles. There are many people from all over the world who watch in English because their language has not been translated for that drama/film, or because their language translation sucks. Or because they know fairly good English and they prefer that the translation is one step away from the original, rather than two steps away from it.

Aaaand, of course, apart from viewers, there are the poor Other Language translators. Who frequently have to look up not only various colloquialisms (most of them are easy to find), but also acronyms (and we all know that for each acronym nowadays there’s a whole long list of different meanings!) and references to things we have no idea about.
Only recently, I was translating a video where all the prices are in US dollars. Why on earth would international viewers from all countries see Korean people expressing money in US dollars, and what does it mean to them? For euros, let’s say that nowadays it’s more or less equivalent (1$=0.93 €), but not so for many other currencies from all over the world.
So just put the amount in the original currency, won/yuan/yen and then, if you like, dollars in parenthesis, so that each language can substitute its own currency.
And no, we cannot convert from dollars to our currency, because dollars on Viki are usually converted the “lazy way”, i.e. just adding 3 zeroes to won, 1$=1000 ₩, which is not at all accurate, as in reality it’s 1$=1305 ₩, On the other hand, I always round-up conversions, for ease of reading, and also because next month or next year they won’t be the same anyway.

It’s just another sign that most Ko-En subbers and editors don’t care much about whatever happens to the translators of other languages, and making their lives easier is not a thought that crosses their minds.


I think the “professional subbers” use an excessive amount of American idiomatic phrases and some are so “trendy” that even though I am a native American and read/ watch the news everyday, there are phrases I never use. For example on one drama subbed by paid subbers, the characters kept on saying “Slay!” which is supposed to mean impressive or amusing. (I had to look “slay” up as a a slang word as “to kill” definitely wasn’t the correct usage in the scene.) I suppose “Slay” is supposed to be synonymous with saying “Killer”? But the slang meaning of “killer” is difficult or unpleasant. There’s a big difference between impressive and amusing so how is the other language subber supposed to sub “slay”? What the characters were saying was the Korean interjection 헐, which I would have left as Heol, or “Wow.” If the OL subber uses the literal meaning of slay, that would likely be totally wrong.
Another very common problem I see in the use of idiomatic phrases is in using phrasal verbs (verbs with another part of speech such as verb with preposition, verb with adverb) the preposition or the adverb is changed which changes the meaning.


I agree that I have seen an excessive amount of slang and English idioms in pre-subs, and I agree that it seems that subbers are often trying to seem ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’. I suppose that’s fine if the English-speaking audience is your ultimate target, but that’s not how things work here at Viki.

I had a pre-sub recently that had the sentence “You’re the only one who wants to knock me up,” but my TE assured me that it had nothing to do with what they were actually saying. Pregnancy was not involved in any way.


The problem we are facing now in our days when it comes to translations is that many of these translators/subbers are extremely young people, and they tend to write according to what age they fall into. The pre-subs I have encountered in some dramas are obviously done by young kids in High School (if they were in College they knew more or less their boundaries when writing subs).

Knocked her up/ Knock me up; if the subber is (mainly) from USA, Young (teenager) this would mean BEAT HER UP/ BEAT ME UP.

It would be very easy for me (since I’m from US) to know whether they meant getting her pregnant or beating her up depending on the scene/story.

I had a pre-sub recently that had the sentence “You’re the only one who wants to knock me up,”

You are the only wants to beat me up/ destroy me/ discredit me/compete and beat me (take my position).

The scene can more or less make us understand or give us an idea of what knock me up stands for in the drama, even if we are not too familiar with that particular ‘‘slang.’’ Is definitely a very bad translation, but if they are very young; how can we blame them?


I agree with you 100%! Even though I’m a native English speaker, I’m often flummoxed with the vernacular/lingo used for translations. In recent times, it seems to have become more prolific. It’s also across all streaming platforms. (I’ve never heard of “slay” used in this sense. It would have bamboozled me too.)

I find that I’m often using the below site to gain some insight into Americanisms.


Wow! Thank you all for your replies :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

I wasn’t sure I would get many responses so I’m over the moon. Talking about younger people doing translations does make sense, there are some words that my daughter uses that seemingly have no relation at all to what she is talking about. For example, when she and her friends went through the “everything is gravy” phase, for saying something was great/cool/excellent. I mean, come on kids :blush:

I also agree about money being shown as dollars. I much prefer the proper currency being used as I like to ask Alexa what the value is in my currency (British pounds)

What I enjoy the most though, is when you see the translation pop up on screen and then low and behold the actors actually use the English word/expression, that you just can’t imagine would be used at all. The best one so far for me, which really tickled me, was the actor actually saying that something gave him the “heebee jeebees” - never in a million years did I think I would hear a Korean person using that :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


The prevalence of what I’d call US teenspeak is very irritating. For one thing it’s terribly reductive and it seems to me a writer has spent time creating dialogue for a specific character, but then their dialogue is translated into generics.

Term like ‘dude’, ‘punk’, ‘my bad’ etc. are really grating.

If it is the case we have students supplying subs then the pity of that is that they don’t have the soul of either a dramatist, or a translator.

Part of the problem is we have a predominance of native speakers translating into another language, when the ideal would be the other way around.

The non-native speaker, trans-literally, may not be as accurate, but they will express the essence of a statement better, in their own language.

Here are some examples of colloquial fails. Btw, I’m new here - can we feature screengrabs?

** Scene: Funeral (ever K-Drama has one!). Mourner expressing condolence: ‘Hang in there’.

** Scene: String quartet at conservatoire. Professor enters and is very critical of their playing … ‘You’re such —t!’ (Secret Affair)

** Scene: Distinguished medical figure speaking to student in a posh medical faculty … ‘does she —s you off?’

** Girl argues with boyfriend: You w-----!’ (Do You Like Brahms?)

** Scene: Josean period drama in which we see the Emperor in a long tirade against his princess daughter. No doubt he’s telling her off for the years of shame she has brought up upon this noble dynasty and he orders her out of the royal quarters. This is subbed then as ‘Go to your room!!’ I can’t remember which drama that was, but he may even have added ‘you’re so grounded’.


This is such an interesting question and whenever I see one of these phrases, I always wonder what the original colloquialisms and idioms are in the original languages, because I’m always really fascinated by different languages essentially saying the same things in such different ways. I’m an OL subber, so I translate from English to my native language, but I’ve also got a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language Teaching and Translation, so maybe I can give you a bit of insight on how it tends to go when it comes to translating these kinds of terms in any language in general.

Basically, the core of our translation classes was always “equivalence of meaning” and what that means is that sometimes for certain phrases (especially stuff like this), you might not have a single word match up to the original sentence, but the stuff that has to match up is the meaning, the connotation and the tone of the speaker. Certain idioms or even words can be essentially untranslatable and that’s when the work gets especially tricky and interesting, because you either have to do a deep dive into various dictionaries to look for that slim chance that something matches up to the OG or you just have to come up with a creative solution. Sometimes, there’s really nothing else to do other than keep the OG (whether you transcribe it or kind of give it a somewhat literal translation) and write a translator’s note and explain it. Whenever I think of this, I always think of my first translation lesson in college. In my language there’s a really specific word for the thing in which we boil coffee. It’s not a pot, it’s not a kettle, or any other English word. Similar, but absolutely none of those things. And whenever it pops up in texts that need to be translated, it’s really up to each translator to kind of just deal with it and be creative in transferring the meaning. The first project we got in that class was a very “simple” guide on how to make black coffee. You’d think that short of a text would be really easy to translate, but it actually took a lot of time for all of us and everyone’s text differed in terms of creative solutions.

I went a bit off track there, but some of these colloquialisms and idioms can really pose the same kind of challenge. I’m not sure what the original phrase was for the translation to be “knocked her up”, but for me that’s always had a bit of a negative connotation. If I heard someone “knocked someone up” I’d probably assume the couple or at least the speaker didn’t really see that in a positive light. I’d say it’s perfectly alright to use that phrase as a translation if the connotation of the original phrase was the same or if the context implied it, but if this isn’t the case and it’s meant to be a positive connotation in the original, although the words are correct, the translation wouldn’t be since the meaning isn’t equivalent.

As for certain slang terms being used in translation at all… Hmm, that’s a whole other other discussion, really. From a linguist’s point of view, I’m always relatively accepting of new terms and new creative uses of language, but it also really depends on the language. Some languages are quite open about accepting new terms and creatively using old ones, while some are not. English is one of those languages with which you can really play around with the language (like for example, adding a noun in front of another noun to modify that noun in order to create a new term to fit your purpose), so perhaps this is why these terms are kind of sneaking in there.

Anyway, I’m going to stop here, because I feel like this is turning out to be like one of my little monologues that I always do whenever I hang out with any of my classmates. I could honestly talk about language nuances for days if given the chance. Hahaha! Really interesting topic, though, and I’d love to hear more insight from other translators, especially those of you that speak Korean and have actually seen this phrase or phrases like it pop up in the English translations. I’d love to hear how you’d rate them in terms of accuracy when it comes to the original meaning in the original language.


The consensus is that the English is almost always more vulgar than the original and the swearwords much more impactful. Because Korean TV shows are watched by all the family, including grannies and kids, they usually avoid vulgarity and profanity, while films are much more “free” in that respect (and also sex and violence, of course).
See this thread, it’s exactly about this topic: Inappropriate use of vulgar words


That’s very welcome professional insight.

I’m not a translator, but my mother was a conference interpreter and I well remember the time she’d spent working her way through often technical or academic papers, surrounded by a wall of specialist dictionaries. Then over dinner she’d be talking about struggling with a sentence that wouldn’t easily translate, and sometimes the word pictures she’d have to draw to convey a meaning.

Everytime I see a subtitle clanger, I say to myself, ‘oh, dear, whatever would mother say!’


Thanks for the link!


Yes. All you need to do is use a snipping tool (or equivalent) and then copy the image and paste it directly into your post. It will upload once it’s pasted. One thing to keep in mind is that if you grab screenshots from Viki that identify the scene and paste them, someone might recall writing those subs and feel very embarrassed by the public shaming. Personally, I think it’s better to find similar issues somewhere outside Viki and use those as examples. Alternatively, you could copy just the sub, describe the scene but make no reference to which drama it came from.

Just my 2¢’s worth :slight_smile:


I like the term “regional colloquialism” to describe items of casual conversation in one language that would never be used in another language.

FYI, the word “colloquialism” (according to the Merriam-Webster website) derives from the word “colloquy” which means “conversation, dialog, high-level serious discussion.” It was first used in 1810 (though M-W does not indicate in which part of the English-verse).

Synonyms for “colloquy” are:

  • Conference
  • Panel
  • Round-robin
  • Symposium
  • Council
  • Panel discussion
  • Roundtable
  • Forum
  • Parley
  • Seminar

“Colloquy” isn’t what I’d call a comfortable yet standard word in English, but some of the synonyms are.

Also according to Merriam-Webster, the root word of “colloquy” is the Latin word “loquī” meaning “to speak,” and descendants of that word in English are:

  • Eloquent
  • Loquacious
  • Ventriloquism
  • Soliloquy
  • Elocution
  • Interlocutor

Merriam-Webster lists thirty-two synonyms for “colloquialism.” Some are:

  • Terminology
  • Slang
  • Idiom
  • Patois
  • Argot
  • Jargon
  • Lingo
  • Jive
  • Shoptalk

My 2 cents here, and that is, we need to voice our concern if we encounter a situation in dramas/movies where they are adding ridiculous slangs/very poor translations in dramas/movies here at RViki. When I first started watching dramas/movies at other popular sites, the translation gave a lot to be desire. I was so frustrated and I kept looking how I could complain about these so terrible translations (especially in traditional Korean/Chinese dramas), and after a long while I finally found a way, and you can say that within one month of constant complaining (my 2 daughter also join to help me), everything improved about 80% not 100% since no one is perfect in this life.

I’m saying about 80% because sometimes they do slip with one or two wrong word usage (for example they use a lot ‘‘my bad’’)…lol, I learned to let it go just because no one is perfect in this world; so a mistake here and there can be forgiven (at least I forgive them) since the rest of the translations are really, really good, and that makes up for that blunder (at least for me, myself and I). Someone mentioned that we in USA are so accustomed to seeing these slang words in sentence/subtitles that we don’t even notice them, but that’s not true; I just choose to ignore it, and make my viewing more enjoyable instead of dwelling on something we have little to no control at all to change. I’ll try, and if it works it works, but if it doesn’t; I won’t lose sleep over it either.

We can only hope the whole team involved, and especially the EDITORS now here at RViki in the dramas/movies; are good enough to correct whatever mess the pre-subs may have, and I have faith they will. The several composition of team members I look into, look to be very well coordinated. What I loved the most was to see so many OL added in every drama. That was definitely a pleasure to see.


@steviepics_788 ,
I had a good chuckle, your examples are so on point!

Welcome to Viki, and Discussions. :raising_hand_woman:t5::wink:



I have a simple philosophy, if a sign is in shot and it has no bearing on a drama, then why sub it.

This occurs especially with repetitive examples. So, a drama will have those setting shots eg. we’re back to the police station, or the hospital. A shot that might flip up thirty times in a series, so why do we need have to have the slogan on the banner hanging from the building translated - every time.

Now, perhaps there is that one viewer who would be thrown if the sub wasn’t there, but I always think, if at any point something is not subbed, the director has indicated that the audience doesn’t need to know this.

A common example is where you might have a chase sequence across the city full of car crashes, punch ups, arrests, cuffings, and still the in-sight signage is being translated.

That’s when I tend to go AAAAARRRRGGHHHH!

Screengrab: Translation of the names on the door plaque. It’s from Episode 12 of Hospital Playlist 2. If you don’t know the names of the characters by now … !

PS. Most of my examples are from N’Fix shows, and yes, I worry about the thing most people don’t. Ha ha.

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