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Epic Punchlines #2: Tablo

In Miscellaneous by Lena

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Thanks to your positive feedback on the last article, Epic Punchlines is being continued as a series. To celebrate this, we’re taking a look at a pair of punchlines by another one of the top punchliners in Khiphop: Tablo!

As before, you will first find the punchlines with some information, then an explanation, and finally an in-depth dissection of the lines’ grammar.

Punchlines

나방이 나비가 되고 싶다고 불에 꽃이 활짝 피냐, 이놈아?
nabang-i nabiga doego sipdago bure kkochi hwaljjak pinya, inoma?
신하가 신이고 싶다고 '하'자가 버려지냐 이놈아?
sinhaga sinigo sipdago ‘ha’jaga beoryeojinya inoma?
Yankie – 이놈 (I.N.D.O) (Feat. Tablo)Yankie Proverbs Chapter 1

The video starts at 1:50 with the punchlines.

Translation & Explanation

‘이놈 (I.N.D.O)’ is a proverb- and punchline-heavy track, but these two punchlines just screamed to be featured in Epic Punchlines.
Both appear one after the other in Tablo’s verse and both express something similar to “Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg,” but see for yourself.

Punchline 1

Just because a moth wants to become a butterfly, do flowers burst into bloom in fire, you bastard?!

This punchline does actually not get lost in translation, you just have to understand the metaphors and the comparison. Keep in mind: The moth is seen as ugly and the butterfly as pretty; moths are drawn towards fire (light) and butterflies towards flowers.

Punchline 2

Just because a vassal wants to be God, does he lose his flaws, you bastard?!

This brilliant punchline did get lost on its way to English, so let’s clear up what’s going on.
The line contains the ambiguous ‘하자’ (haja) which can both mean ‘flaws’ and ‘syllable ‘ha’, giving the line the second meaning:
Just because a vassal wants to be God, does he lose his syllable ‘ha’, you bastard?!
You need some basic mathematics to understand this as well as the knowledge that ‘vassal’ means ‘신하’ (sinha) and ‘god’ means ‘신’ (sin). So the equation goes:
sinha – (syllable) ha = sin
i.e.
vassal – flaws = god

Grammar

Note that both lines contain reported speech, which means there is a sentence in a sentence and thus all in all two subjects. For the first punchline, the direct speech would be “나비가 되고 싶다” (nabiga doego spida, I want to become a butterfly) and for the second it would be “신이고 싶다” (sinigo sipda, I want to be God).
As for the translation, “이놈아” (inoma) is a somewhat condescending way to address someone which is why it was translated as “you bastard” although “bastard” is not exactly a translation of the word “놈” (nom, guy/jerk). Also, most Korean nouns have no indication of number (singular/plural form) which makes translating them difficult from time to time. ‘하자’ (haja, flaw) was translated as ‘flaws‘ due to context reasons; the vassal probably has more than one flaw.

Last but not least, let’s break down the two punchlines into their components:

Punchline 1

나방이 나비가 되고 싶다고 불에 꽃이 활짝 피냐, 이놈아?

  • noun ‘나방’ (nabang, moth) + subject particle ‘이(가)’ (iga)
  • noun ‘나비’ (nabi, butterfly) + subject particle ‘가’ (ga)
  • form of verb ‘되다’ (doeda, become) + form of modal verb ‘싶다’ (sipda, want to) + ‘다고’ (dago, postposition used for reported speech)
  • noun ‘불’ (bul, fire/light) + particle/preposition ‘에’ (e, in)
  • noun ‘꽃’ (kkot, flower) + object particle ‘이’ (i)
  • adverb ‘활짝’ (hwaljjak, wide) + form of verb ‘피다’ (pida, bloom) which in combination mean ‘in full bloom’ or ‘burst into full bloom’ + particle ‘냐’ (nya) for questions in colloquial speech
  • determiner ‘이’ (i, this) + noun ‘놈 ‘ (nom, guy/jerk) + vocative particle ‘아’ (a) which is used in colloquial speech to call someone’s name
Punchline 2

신하가 신이고 싶다고 ‘하’자가 버려지냐 이놈아?

  • noun ‘신하’ (sinha, vassal) + subject particle ‘가’ (ga)
  • noun ‘신’ (sin, god) + form of verb ‘이다’ (i, be) + form of modal verb ‘싶다’ (sipda, want to) + ‘다고’ (dago, postposition used for reported speech)
  • noun ‘하자’ (haja, flaws) / ‘하 자’ (ha ja, syllable ha) + subject particle ‘가’ (ga)
  • ‘버려지다’ (beoryeojida) which is the passive form of the verb ‘버리다’ (beorida, throw away, abandon) + particle ‘냐’ (nya) for questions in colloquial speech
  • determiner ‘이’ (i, this) + noun ‘놈 ‘ (nom, guy/jerk) + vocative particle ‘아’ (a) which is used in colloquial speech to call someone’s name

How did you like these epic punchlines? Was the explanation understandable? Was the part about grammar of any use to you? Let us know!

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