This example from Alice is really funny! And like you said, there are so many in K-dramas but we can’t always translate them. Sometimes, like in your example, it’s just one joke in passing and the best is to ignore it and just translate the dialogue smoothly, but other times it’s a central part of the scene and we either have to find an equivalent or just explain it. There was the 무감정증 / 무정자증 joke in Alice too (I think it was ep 5): he says he has 무감정증 (mugamjeongjeung), which is alexithymia, a medical condition where someone is unable to be moved by emotions. But she doesn’t know the term and thinks of something close in sound, 무정자증 (mujeongjajeung,), which is aspermia (medical condition causing infertility). Since they are talking about the reason why he doesn’t have a romantic partner, it makes sense in her mind and it’s also difficult to translate it any other way than by keeping the original.
When I can’t find a way to translate the wordplay as a wordplay in a drama, and have to leave out the joke from the sub, I usually still leave a note with an explanation in the team discussion, because maybe in some of the other languages the pun works and they can include it in their translation.
Recurring acronyms (e.g. 과수대 for 과학수사대, forensics/CSI) can be manageable when you have context, but they’re often so misleading! Slang is the worst for me. As a non native speaker, I struggle with slang so much because it changes very fast, there are always new terms I’ve never heard elsewhere. Usually it takes a bit of thinking and digging through dictionaries and naver 지식in in hopes for the explanation.
Love Revolution is full of slang (as expected of a high-school webdrama). And it even has gaming slang! So it needs a bit of research into video-games vocab. I would be useless on this drama if we had no Korean script, because I need to at least figure out how to spell it to even start to look for the explanation (plus, the script itself also has explanations for some terms, and I can also sometimes find the phrase in the webtoon the drama is adapted from).
It’s indeed nice to share some of our examples so we can have ideas for future instances. I probably have quite a few examples in my notes for past works, if I find anything useful I’ll share it.
For now, here’s a short list from Love Revolution, but it’s mostly slang so it’s not really “wordplays”:
- 안준마 = 안 준다는 마인드 = literally “No thought/intention whatsoever of giving it.”
- 내로남불 = 내가하면 로맨스 남이하면 불륜 = literally, “If I do it, it’s romance, but if others do it, it’s an affair.” It is used to say someone is judging others’ actions differently than they would their own. Here I translated it to “Nice double standard you have there”.
- 꾸안꾸 = 꾸민듯안꾸민듯 = literally, “looking like you dressed up but like you didn’t at the same time”, in other words, looking effortlessly good.
- 자낳괴 = 자본주의가 낳은 괴물 = literally, “a monster born of capitalism”
- 생즙 = literally, “raw juice”, and it actually exists means juice from raw fruits, but in teen slang it also means tears…
- 사바사 = 사람 by 사람 = literally “person by person”. It means “it depends on the person”, “case by case”.
- 버정 = acronym for 버스정류장, bus stop.
And this one that I discovered in Do You Like Brahms? (even though it’s probably used a lot):
- 맛점 (하다) = 맛있는 점심 = “Enjoy your lunch!”