The fourth main character of our Epic Punchlines series is Just Music’s troublemaker Black Nut. Some of you are seeing him live in London this Friday, so check his skills and learn some Korean while you’re at it!
Truth is, a book could be filled with his cheeky punchlines, which made choosing only one line quite a difficult task. In the end, the decision fell on a line that will hopefully not only amuse but also help you acquire some more, useful language skills.
막가파MC기형아 (Black Nut)
The video starts at 2:21 with the punchline.
Translation & Explanation
Translation: Like a white person, you can’t write the lyrics I write
Please note: The term ‘white person’ is not meant to be pejorative or offensive in any way.
“You can’t write the lyrics I write” sounds rather punchy already, but what is it with the “like a white person”? Yes, this phrase does not make much sense, and that is because it is needed for the punchline. The trick is as usual ambiguity, not of one word though but of two this time. The first is the verb ‘write’ (쓰다, sseuda) which can also mean ‘use’. The second is ‘니가’ (niga) which can be understood as 1) the personal pronoun ‘you’ and as 2) the N-word. This results in the punchline’s last part having two meanings, literally and word by word:
‘니가’ 쓸 수 없지
you write cannot
N-word use cannot
And properly translated together with “백인처럼” it results in:
Like a white person, can’t use the N-word
Were you able to crack this tough Nut? Or do you need more in-depth explanations? Then head on to the Grammar section below!
내가 쓰는 가사 백인처럼 ‘니가’ 쓸 수 없지
Repetition is a basic necessity for learning a language, and you should already know the phrase ‘백인처럼’ from the series’ first part! Although it is explained below, try to remember its meaning (this shouldn’t be too hard if you already read the translation above).
- personal pronoun ‘나’ (na) + subject particle ‘-가’ (ga) = 내가 (naega)
- 쓰는 (sseuneun) = form of verb ‘쓰다’ (sseuda, write/use) before a noun
- noun ‘가사’ (gasa, lyrics)
- noun ‘백인’ (baegin, white person; made up of the hanja ‘白’ (baek, white) and ‘人’ (in, person))
- 처럼 (cheoreom) = particle meaning ‘like/as’
- 니가 (niga) = wrong spelling of personal pronoun ‘너’ (neo, you) + subject particle ‘-가’ (ga) = 네가 (nega)*
- 쓸 수 없지 (sseul su eopji, verb phrase) = form of verb ‘쓰다’ (sseuda, write/use) + phrase ‘수 없다’ (su eopda, cannot) + particle ‘-지’ (ji) for stating the obvious
*Note on ‘니가’
(This is actually the main key to this punchline.)
The personal pronoun ‘너’ (neo, you) and the subject particle ‘-가’ (ga) put together result in ‘네가’ (nega).
너 + -가 = 네가
neo + ga = nega
However, there is also ‘내가’ (naega, I; personal pronoun ‘나’ (na, I) + subject particle ‘-가’ (ga)), which sounds slightly similar (the vowel ‘ㅐ’ (ae) is pronounced like the German/Swedish ‘ä’, the Danish/Norwegian ‘æ’, or like the ‘a’ in the American English ‘bad’).
나 + -가 = 내가
na + ga = naega
Due to the similar pronunciation of these two phrases they can be easily confused in spoken language. To avoid such misunderstandings, Koreans often pronounce ‘네가’ (nega) as ‘neegah’. Writing it that way (니가, niga) is in fact wrong, yet justified in this case since that pronunciation is needed to make it sound similar to the N-word and to make the punchline work.
Now, a good start into the week to all of you and a spectacular night to everyone going to the show!
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