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Epic Punchlines #5: San E

In Miscellaneous by Lena

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Together with Epic Punchlines, let’s take a look at a punchline by Rap Genius San E!

San E (who you can currently get to know better by watching Rapper Car) calls himself a Rap Genius. This cannot be denied, for his absolutely natural play with syllables, grammar, and everything else a language has to offer, as well as his accurate, clear pronunciation speak in his favor.

This time’s punchline will teach you a tiny bit of Korean history, and demonstrate a useful stylistic device that is common in both rap lyrics and poems: the ellipsis.
The punchline in question can be found in producer XEPY‘s track ‘Rap Genius VS Punch Line King‘ where Swings and San E battle it out over three rounds: rhyme, flow, and punchlines. Most hiphop fans agree that San E won the battle, but that aside, let’s take a look at the punchline.

Punchline

난 알 깨는 혁거세 알 깨진 넌 거세
nan al kkaeneun hyeokgeose al kkaejin neon geose
Rap Genius VS Punch Line King (Feat. San E and Swings)XEPY

The video starts at 3:53 with the punchline.

Translation & Explanation

I’m the egg-cracking Hyeokgeose, you’re a eunuch whose nuts were crushed

Park Hyeokgeose was the founding monarch of Silla. According to historical records, he came out of an egg. He became king at the age of 13 and his name is made up of the hanja for “bright,” “live” and “world” and means something like “someone who will rule the world with bright light” (source). For more information on Hyeokgeose of Silla, Wikipedia is at your service.
Now that you should understand “the egg-cracking Hyeokgeose,” the king who came out of an egg, let’s move on to the second part of this punchline, the “eunuch whose nuts were crushed.” First of all, we have to talk about the Korean word for “nuts” (or balls, if you like). It is the same word used in the egg-cracking phrase and yes, literally, it means ‘eggs’. It has the colloquial meaning of ‘nuts’ or ‘balls’ though, just like the Portuguese language has ‘ovos’ or the German language has ‘Eier’. (Does anyone else use ‘eggs’ to express ‘nuts’ or ‘balls’ in their language?) Secondly, eunuch means ‘거세’ (geose) which is part of the egg-cracking king’s name: Hyeokgeose (note that as part of this name, ‘거세’ (geose) does not mean ‘eunuch’, it is simply the way the name’s hanja are read).
So, the brilliant thing about this punchline is not a pun (oho!) but the remarkable analogy of each sentence:

egg-cracking VS cracked (crushed) eggs
active VS passive
Hyeokgeose VS geose
king VS eunuch
I VS you

It is simply a beautiful, really well-written line, and if you are not convinced you should take a closer look at its syntax.

Grammar

Both sentences are made up of nothing but a subject phrase (SP) and an object phrase (OP):

SP [ 난 ] OP [ 알 깨는 혁거세 ] , SP [ 알 깨진 넌 ] OP [ 거세 ]

They each are missing the verb phrase thus literally read: I egg-cracking Hyeokgeose, nuts-crushed you eunuch (Me Tarzan, you Jane)

By the way, the verb phrase is the one and only necessary component for forming a sentence in Korean, e.g. “압니다” (amnida) would be a grammatically complete sentence even though it is only a verb. It would need to be translated according to its context, “I know,” “You know,” etc.

So this is what is called an ellipsis: omitting one or more words while the sentence’s meaning can still be understood from the context. Rappers often make use of this stylistic device since it enables them to end their lines differently. (This is helpful because if one line equals one sentence, a line would always end with a verb and verb endings in Korean do not offer a lot of possibilites to rhyme with.)

난 알 깨는 혁거세

  • 난 (nan) = the condensed version of the pronoun ‘나’ (na, I) + the subject particle ‘는’ (neun)
  • noun ‘알’ (al, egg/s) + form of verb ‘깨다’ (kkaeda, break/here: crack or crush)
  • name ‘혁거세’ (Hyeokgeose, 赫居世)

알 깨진 넌 거세

  • noun ‘알’ (al, egg/s) + form of verb ‘깨지다’ (kkaejida), which is the passive form of the verb ‘깨다’ (kkaeda, break/here: crack or crush)
  • (neon) = the condensed version of the pronoun ‘너’ (neo, you) + the subject particle ‘는’ (neun)
  • noun ‘거세 ‘ (geose, eunuch)

The two adjective-like parts in front of the object ‘혁거세’ (Hyeokgeose) and the subject ‘넌’ (neon, you) can be translated in two ways that were both utilized in the above translation.
1) As an -ing form: egg-cracking (알 깨는)/nuts-crushed (알 깨진)
or
2) as a relative clause: who cracked the egg(알 깨는)/whose nuts were crushed. (알 깨진)
The first is seldomly realizable though, since those adjective phrases can be variably long. Take this very realistic example (the adjective phrase is underlined):

  • 피자는 이탈리아에서 먹어야 제 맛이지!
    pijaneun itallia-eseo meogeoya je masiji
    Pizza tastes best in Italy!
  • 이탈리아에서 피자 먹어본 적 있는 사람처럼 말하네.
    itallia-eseo pija meogeobon jeok inneun saramcheoreom marhane
    You talk like someone who has eaten pizza in Italy before.

(Shout-out ai nostri amici italiani.♡)



Pat yourself on the shoulder if you read this far. You have learned a lot, and you deserve a pizza. 😉
Feel free to attack us with questions or love, we appreciate it all!

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