Ko-en subtitlers, please put formality level in team notes

Thanks for bumping this topic! This is really important! :smile: Taking notes for when I get into leadership roles in the future :writing_hand::writing_hand::sweat_smile:


This is still a debatable topic. Many people in North India, still use आप हो/आप करो/आप जाओ (really common in movies, shows, songs). In Khadi Boli, both forms are correct, and is in popular use. However, Manak Hindi rejects this idea, marking आप as बहुचन। For Manak Hindi, आप हो would be grammatically incorrect, but Khadi Boli accepts this idea.

Search results for the same by Google:

However, despite knowing Manak Hindi marks this formality incorrect, I still use it in singular cases. If someone is talking with one person, I’d use आप हो/आप करो/आप जाओ. If someone is talking with more than one, I’d use आप हैं/आप कीजिए/आप जाइए.

After all, this is how languages evolve. If something is in popular use, it will, over time, become a rule.

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There are a lot of useful topics buried here. There’s one even on use of curse words.

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धन्यवाद, आप एक अच्छी शिक्षिका हैं|


I use formal and informal based on who is talking. Mostly "aap- आप " and "tum- तुम " …"tu- तू " is used only when someone is rude. Whenever I see “bitch or wench”, I use "bad person - खराब " instead. For words like “jerk, bastard, punk, sob” etc, I use “बदमाश, गुंडे, कमीने, कुत्ते” . I am not sure if person is actually calling the other bastard or just something like jerk , because in Hindi bastard means not knowing who your father is.

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If you are referring to what sounds like “gae sekki-ya” (개새끼야! ), it means son of a dog. So nothing to do with your mother’s morals. It’s more of a generic insult, not always to be translated as bastard. Sometimes a more appropriate way would be the generic “jerk!”
And what sounds like “kicchibeh” means just “home girl”. At what point this became a derogatory term, I don’t know. Probably because in the olden days, you being a girl in itself put you in a lowly status. But it is not used only as an insult, you can hear girl friends saying that in an affectionate way, even mothers to daughters.

This was discussed in the thread quoted above by shraddhasing.

I have made a whole document on Korean insults and slang, it might help you to have a look. I have put in red the ones we encounter more often, so that you don’t have to go through everything.


This doc is really informative! I always thought “개불” was the equivalent of “Bullsh*t” though… that’s what I’ve seen it being translated to :thinking:

The word you’re looking for is 개뿔with double B
combined word of 개 (dog) + 뿔 (horn). A dog doesn’t have horns, so…

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ohhh thanks for clarifying!^^

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I also thought “gaeshikiya” was SOB but for some reason, it has been usually translated into bastard so I just use equivalent word in Hindi like I said before. For girls, I use "chokri -छोकरी , ladki- लड़की , bcchi - बच्ची " – these are all equivalent to "Girl, Wench, Hey You…"etc. For boys, similarly "chokre -छोकरे , ladke -लड़के , bacche -बच्चे " etc .
I am sure in any old culture, being called Bastard is one of worst things.
Before in Hindi and Punjabi Cinema the worst anyone would call each other was “bastard, Sob / Prostitute” but now lot of movies have fbombs and worse. You cannot watch them with your parents!


SOB is too harsh, it is one step further than gae sekkya.
I think in Arab “son of a dog” is an insult, but on the milder end of the scale. Parents even call their kids “ibn/bint kalb” when they’re mad at them, so it’s not too bad.
In English we also have “son of a gun”.


SOB would be closest to “son of dog” in literal meaning but I get it that “gae-shikkiya”'s meaning is not that severe. In Hindi/Punjabi, their is curse word “saale”. It means wife’s brother and is used to address or to curse someone. I guess wife’s family was considered less than a man’s. I rather use that then using bastard anytime.

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It is close, but SOB it has an implication about the mother’s morals, insinuating she’s a loose woman. Whereas “son of a dog” doesn’t insult the mother as well.

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swear words are so complex sometimes :slight_smile: SOB is more popular in America. “Dog”(literally) is more used in India as far as I know. When I was growing up there, we heard these in movies mostly - "Saale(wife’s brother) -साले , Kutte (dog) - कुत्ते , Kmeene(Heinous person) - कमीने " …
Bastard was used to insult deeper. In fact, a popular line was always “Kutte, Kmeene, I will drink your blood!” :slight_smile:

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I didn’t even read the English part of the sentence. I straight up read the entire Hindi dialogue :rofl::rofl::rofl:

I don’t mind using harsh swear words if the show is rated R. If it isn’t, I just choose between these, depending upon the context and original Korean word. साले, नालायक, बेवकूफ, कमीने, कुत्ते के बच्चे, गधे के बच्चे, गधे, चुड़ैल, डायन, ओए, अबे, सुन इधर, नमकहराम, हरामज़ादे, कुत्ते।
However, I have never used all of these words. Some of these are not even swear words but just insults. I’d rather use insults instead of swear words if used by teens.

In case, swear words are used in a fight, I might increase the level of insult.

I have a hard time using “Seonbe and hubae” because “sun” and “be” (same as Korean sounds) in Hindi would be “Listen here you little ****”. Of course, despite the word being in Korean and meaning senior, I just sometimes laugh at how any Hindi speaker would react on this word :joy:

My sibling and I just laugh every time a high school girl is fangirling one of her seniors and shouts out loud, “Sunbae!!!”

Similar for “Hubae”, “Hu” means “am” and “be” is used as insult. So, if I transliterate Hubae, it would be something like “I am here, so what” (in a more insulting tone).

I do sometimes just transliterate Senior and Junior if that’s the last option.


For Sunbae and Hoobae (both one word), I use Senior and Junior if needed. Otherwise I just use Sir or Madam or Mr./Miss (Name) Or name with Ji at end. We, Indians, don’t address our seniors or juniors the same way Koreans do. We also don’t use Position Titles as much. It is again mostly Sir/Madam or Names with Ji at end to show respect.
One thing used to confuse me in before that people called others’ mom/dad - mom/dad or grandma/grandfather etc. but I have since figured that we use Aunty/Uncle/Maanji/Babaji etc similarly.

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Another funny one in almost every 80s movie was – “मैं तुम्हारे बच्चे की माँ बनने वाली हूँ” (I am going to be a mother of your child) … We would be falling down with laughter on those scenes. What a concept it was …It is snowing outside and the couple is always stuck somewhere remote with no coats so they have to – to keep warm??? Or it is raining and same thing.


I am “listening in” to this subtitling discussion because I appreciate information about levels of formality as a viewer who knows only English well. This is where, for English subs, vocabulary is so important.

I have known three-year-old children who sound like adults because they have managed somehow to pick up a few multi-syllabic words, but clearly they are not adults.

I love “listening in” to subtitling discussions because it helps me pay attention better to details I might otherwise miss in non-English dialog.

My first “awareness” of relationships and levels of formality in and Asian Drama was in the very complicated C-drama Medalist Lawyer Heir. No longer up on Viki.

For me, it was so complicated as a family drama that I had to re-watch parts of some episodes five or six times and re-read English subs five or six times to figure out what was happening with characters and their family relationships.

And that’s when my ear first started hearing the word that sounds (to me) like “guh” and was translated on screen as “brother” in the context of an actual brother and sister talking and in the actual context of two males who were friends talking. At least that’s the way I remember it.

So, I looked up transliterations of Mandarin words for family relationships (biological family as well as social family) and, as the saying in English goes, “kept my ear out” for those words whenever I saw English subs containing the English equivalent. And as the episodes for Medalist Lawyer Heir unfolded, I started noticing how certain words in Chinese appeared and disappeared in characters’ conversations as their relationships changed.

And that was the start of me paying more attention to names, titles, and relationships in Korean.

Everybody in every culture I can think of has ways of establishing levels of formality in various relationships, and in English it can be just as complicated and confusing.

Modern English, as compared to something like modern German or ancient Anglo-Saxon, is a much less inflected language than its ancestors. It has fewer specialized words indicating who someone is, what status they have in a certain context, and what freedoms they have in addressing others, but many levels of formality and informality exist.

As a child growing up in the Southern United States in the 1950s and 1960s, I was endlessly reminded of that. At one point, my family lived next door to a family in which the members treated each other very lovingly and respectfully, but the parents allowed the children to call them by their personal names.

When I came home one day and referred to the adults next door using their personal names, my mother immediately gave me the evil eye–a really hard stare–and said, “We do not do that in our family.” I knew I had disobeyed some fundamental part of the cultural code.

For me as an English speaker, one syllable and two-syllable words in conversations sound AND read as young and careless and less educated and less financially stable.

Multi-syllabic English words, especially those derived from Latin and Greek always sound more formal and respectful and make the speaker (or persons being referred to) seem more mature, stable, educated, and well-to-do.

It’s not quite an instinctive response, but it’s pretty strong.

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What you say is 100% correct. There are subtle ways of expressing formality in English as well, even with the ubiquitous “you”. Not nearly as precise and nuanced as in Asian languages, but still one, as a translator, can still make an effort and convey something of the hierarchy of relationships. Many new Korean-English subbers are unaware of this, and that’s why we still see characters in historical dramas saying “Okay” to the king. Sigh!


That is (certainly, definitely, absolutely AND of course) cringeworthy.