back to top

This Typography Art Shows The Differences Between English And Korean Sayings

Which is better: "YOLO" or "Follow your erection"?

Posted on

"Found in Translation" is the second annual typographic exhibition hosted by Stigma & Cognition. The exhibit sheds light on the cultural similarities and differences between the two languages.

Stigma & Cognition / Via snc-newyork.com

Twenty-two Korean artists and twenty-two English-speaking artists were asked to create typography art based on common idioms found in both cultures.

1. English: "YOLO" | Korean: "Follow your erection"

This provocative expression carries the spirit of ballsiness, which is also well manifested in its English twin brother, YOLO.
Ged Palmer | Sang Hyun Lee / Via static.squarespace.com

This provocative expression carries the spirit of ballsiness, which is also well manifested in its English twin brother, YOLO.

2. English: "Let them eat cake" | Korean: "Since Korean cabbages are expensive, serve me Kimchi made with western cabbages"

Several years ago when the lower class households were struggling with skyrocketing cabbage prices, there was an incident when a former president said, “Since Asian cabbages are expensive, just serve me kimchi made with western cabbages” (when in fact, western cabbage was a lot more expensive). His statement was heavily criticized nationwide, leaving him with the nickname, “Korean Marie Antoinette”.
Luke Choice | Sol Lim / Via static.squarespace.com

Several years ago when the lower class households were struggling with skyrocketing cabbage prices, there was an incident when a former president said, “Since Asian cabbages are expensive, just serve me kimchi made with western cabbages” (when in fact, western cabbage was a lot more expensive). His statement was heavily criticized nationwide, leaving him with the nickname, “Korean Marie Antoinette”.

3. English: "Don‘t judge a book by its cover" | Korean: "You can’t tell Doenjang apart from feces until you taste it"

Doenjang is a fermented soybean paste commonly used in traditional Korean cuisine. Despite its nutritional benefits and savory flavor, its appearance doesn’t quite live up to your expectation. With its distinctive brown color and moist texture, the paste bears a striking resemblance to feces. Although most people can probably tell them apart without actually tasting it, the metaphor does teach you an important life lesson.
David McLeod | Chul Hee Park / Via static.squarespace.com

Doenjang is a fermented soybean paste commonly used in traditional Korean cuisine. Despite its nutritional benefits and savory flavor, its appearance doesn’t quite live up to your expectation. With its distinctive brown color and moist texture, the paste bears a striking resemblance to feces. Although most people can probably tell them apart without actually tasting it, the metaphor does teach you an important life lesson.

4. English: "Actions speak louder than words" | Korean: "An action is worth a hundred words"

Although slightly exaggerated, this Korean saying highlights the same human truth as its English counterpart — the power of doing over saying.
Tom Lan/ Yoon Jung Ban / Via static.squarespace.com

Although slightly exaggerated, this Korean saying highlights the same human truth as its English counterpart — the power of doing over saying.

5. English: "Less is more" | Korean: "The art of simplicity"

Historically Koreans have upheld the value of simplicity in artistic expression, as exemplified by the extensive use of white color and negative space in calligraphy, ceramics and painting.
Tony Di Spigna | Daha Lee / Via static.squarespace.com

Historically Koreans have upheld the value of simplicity in artistic expression, as exemplified by the extensive use of white color and negative space in calligraphy, ceramics and painting.

6. English: "Love is merely a madness" | Korean: "Love is an act of madness"

It comes with no surprise that this Shakespearean expression also happens to be the title of one of Korea’s best-selling novels. It emphasizes the cynicality of love through diction by using the word jit, which often refers to an unfavorable action.
Neil Summerour | Gyuhyuk Jung / Via static.squarespace.com

It comes with no surprise that this Shakespearean expression also happens to be the title of one of Korea’s best-selling novels. It emphasizes the cynicality of love through diction by using the word jit, which often refers to an unfavorable action.

7. English: "Abracadabra" | Korean: "Abracadabra"

Originated from the Buddhist scriptures, this phrase “surisuri masuri” (수리수리마수리) was once used when wishing someone prosperity and good fortune. In modern times, however, the phrase has been taken out of a religious context and simply used as an incantation used for magic tricks, the same way Abracadabra is used.
Jon Contino | Studio Corners / Via static.squarespace.com

Originated from the Buddhist scriptures, this phrase “surisuri masuri” (수리수리마수리) was once used when wishing someone prosperity and good fortune. In modern times, however, the phrase has been taken out of a religious context and simply used as an incantation used for magic tricks, the same way Abracadabra is used.

8. English: "Hair of the dog" | Korean: "Alcohol that treats hangover"

The term is a compound word that combines haejang (treating a hangover) and sool (an alcoholic beverage). Thus, haejangsool means treating a hangover with alcohol, which is a fairly ubiquitous concept globally.
Gage Hamilton | Min Goo Yoon / Via static.squarespace.com

The term is a compound word that combines haejang (treating a hangover) and sool (an alcoholic beverage). Thus, haejangsool means treating a hangover with alcohol, which is a fairly ubiquitous concept globally.

9. English: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" | Korean: "You can turn misfortune into good fortune"

Originally derived from a Chinese proverb, the idiom is widely popularized in Korea to refer to a situation where an unfortunate event is turned on its head to bring good fortune.
Lauren Hom | Moon Seok Oh / Via static.squarespace.com

Originally derived from a Chinese proverb, the idiom is widely popularized in Korea to refer to a situation where an unfortunate event is turned on its head to bring good fortune.

10. English: "Do what you gotta do" | Korean: "Do what you want"

This expression is used to urge someone to do whatever he/she wants. Namely, in a romantic relationship, a girl would use this phrase to dismiss her boyfriend in a sarcastic manner, when she really means the exact opposite.
Maia Then | SooYoung Jang / Via static.squarespace.com

This expression is used to urge someone to do whatever he/she wants. Namely, in a romantic relationship, a girl would use this phrase to dismiss her boyfriend in a sarcastic manner, when she really means the exact opposite.

11. English: "TGIF" | Korean: "Burning Friday"

Boolkeum is an abbreviation of a phrase “Booltahneun Keumyoil” which literally means "Burning Friday."
Txaber | Hee Jun Kim / Via static.squarespace.com

Boolkeum is an abbreviation of a phrase “Booltahneun Keumyoil” which literally means "Burning Friday."

12. English: "Think outside the box" | Korean: "Break the framework"

“Framework” usually refers to a supporting structure of a building or an object, but its Korean translation, “teul”, specifically connotates its rigid property.
Nik Ainley | Na Hum Kim / Via static.squarespace.com

“Framework” usually refers to a supporting structure of a building or an object, but its Korean translation, “teul”, specifically connotates its rigid property.

Participating artists included Toni Di Spigna, Studio KimGarden, Jon Contino, Sol Lim, Rafael Esquer, Chul Hee Park, Luke Choice, Ged Palmer and many more.

The exhibit will run through December 8th from 11am to 7pm at Openhouse gallery (201 Mulberry St.) After the New York show, it will relocate in Seoul to greet its Korean audiences. Check out their website to see the full exhibit.

Top trending videos

Watch more BuzzFeed Video Caret right

Top trending videos

Watch more BuzzFeed Video Caret right
The best things at three price points