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So Hot by the Wondergirls (원더걸스): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

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(Source)

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought much about the Wonder Girls (원더걸스).

To be precise, not since writing these posts back in April 2008. And in which I was pretty critical of manager JYP’s (박진영) overly sexual marketing of them, and especially of the Korean public’s collective refusal to acknowledge that. After all, band member Ahn So-hee (안소희) was only 15 at the time.

Maybe too critical though, and since then I’ve written much more nuanced posts on the issues that that raised, partially in response to reading excellent alternative perspectives by Gord Sellar and Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling. But still, I did feel vindicated when So Hot came out just a few weeks later, especially as it was advertised on mainstream Korean portal sites with GIFs of the music video like these on their front pages. One of which, like Matt wrote, comes from the same point (0:17) as a breathy “Oh! Oh!” in the track, and “if you looped it, you’d have a porn soundtrack.”

Feeling a little smug then, and not particularly liking any of their songs either – they’re generally much too slow for my tastes – I’ve deliberately avoided listening to the Wondergirls ever since. Yet nearly 3 years later, not only do I suddenly find that like them or not, I have to research them, but literally just as I started MellowYel at Mixtapes and Linear Notes wrote a compelling post in which she argues that, basically, “most South Korean girl group concepts since 2007 have been determined by the Wonder Girls”, and that this points to JYP being simply “great at finding formulas that work”. And she’s by no means the first person to make that argument to me either, although she is the first to pass on such convincing evidence.

So hey, while I’ll always consider JYP a sexist pig, I can also acknowledge his musical and marketing skills at the same time. Either way, it’s high time for to reconsider the Wondergirls, and I’d be very interested in and would appreciate hearing readers’ own takes on So Hot to start. Especially as to what it’s about really, because it seems so narcissistic that it’s almost a satire, especially with some comic elements in the video.

Having just praised JYP’s marketing skills though, then I’m really surprised at the poor quality of the official one available:

For the sake of getting the gist, here’s another one with subtitles, although there’s a few basic mistakes with the English:

Finally, the lyrics themselves, which are so easy that they should at least be in lower-intermediate Korean textbooks. Certainly they’d make for more interesting classes than discussions of temple visits and making kimchee that are the normal fare:

왜 자꾸 쳐다보니 왜에에

내가 그렇게 예쁘니 이이

아무리 그렇다고 그렇게 쳐다보면

내가 좀 쑥스럽잖니 이이

내가 지나갈 때 마다 아아

고갤 돌리는 남자들 을을

뒤에서 느껴지는 뜨거운 시선들

어떻게 하면 좋을지 이이

Why do you look at me so often? Why~?

Am I that pretty?

No matter how pretty I am, if you look at me like that

I get embarrassed , yes?

Every time I walk past [them]

Men that turn their heads

I feel their hot gazes behind me

If that happens, what’s best to do?

(Source)

Here, the frequent “니” endings are a short, informal version of the very formal “~ㅁ니까” ones for asking questions, which is why I added a question mark to them in lines 1 and 2. Line 4 though, is a little more complicated, because there’s a “잖” (short for “잖아”) in the “쑥스럽다” (“embarrassed”), which is used a lot in daily speech when the listener (albeit only an equal or someone of lower status) already knows well – or should know well – what the speaker is saying, as explained in my scan of pages 130-131 from 한국어 문형 표현 100 below (a wonderful book, which teaches Korean learners the differences between 100 commonly confused grammar points). Having that in a question form though, sounds really strange, and so my wife and I think the nuance of the “잖니” ending is effectively that of a tag question, i.e. “지”. It also implies that she’s really talking to herself too.

Before that, in line 3 the “아무리 그렇다고” basically means “no matter [the previous sentences]“. Then in line 7, “고갤” (short for “고개를”) literally translates as “scruff off the neck”, which can be misleading in this video in particular because, in English, “to take something by the scruff of the neck”  means to completely control it (i.e. precisely what the girls in the video seem to be doing of the men), whereas it really just means “head”.

Next, in line 8, the “지” in “좋을지” is very strange, and I’m not sure that it is a actually a tag question, as I first thought. Either way, my wife assures me that here at least it basically means “~ㄹ까”, an ending you use when you’re asking someone’s opinion, which means she’s literally asking “what is good?”. Hence my “what’s best to do?”.

Finally, although the chorus is very short and easy, I’ll add it separately below, just to make it easier to find. In it, I’ve translated “너무” as “so”, as even though the dictionary gives “too”, in my experience it’s used as “very” (or, indeed, “so”) just as often. I was a little confused by “너무 매력 있어” in line 2 though, because I’ve always learned that “매력” meant “attractiveness”, with “매력적이다” meaning “attractive”. By itself, “매력(이) 있어”, literately “attractiveness have” seems fine too, but what on Earth is the “very’ before that doing there? Is “매력” a noun, an adjective, or what?

It didn’t seem very important, so I gave up and just went with “I’m so attractive”!

(Source)

I′m so hot 난 너무 예뻐요

I′m so fine 난 너무 매력 있어

I′m so cool 난 너무 멋져

I’m so so so hot hot

I’m so hot, I’m so pretty

I’m so fine, I’m so attractive

I’m so cool, I’m so cool

I’m so so so hot hot

(Source)

언제나 나를 향한 눈길들이 이

항상 따라오는 이 남자들이 이

익숙해 질 때도 된 것 같은데

왜 아직도 부담스러운지 이

조용히 살고 싶은데 에에

다른 여자애들처럼 엄엄

엄마는 왜 날 이렇게 나놨어

내 삶을 피곤하게 하는지

Gazes are always turned towards me

These men always follow me

I think it’s time to get used to it

Why is it still a burden

I just want to live quietly

Just like other girls

Why did my mother give birth to me like this?

I don’t know why something is making my life so tiring

(Source)

Not quite so much to discuss here fortunately.

First in line 3 – “익숙해 질 때도 된 것 같은데” – I confess I don’t know what the “도” (again? also? too?) is doing there exactly, and am open to suggestions, but meanwhile I was “cough” happy to notice the past tense marker “ㄴ” in “된”, giving, literally, “get useㅇ to it – time – 도? – has come – I guess”.

Next, in line 7, “나놨지” had me completely stumped, and no wonder: my wife explained it was a combination of “낳다” (to be born) and “놓다” (to be put). Knowing that, and with the mother mentioned at the beginning, then I think the intention was “Why did my mother make me like this”, as indeed most other translations have put it. That was really tempting, but then at the very least my awkward “Why did my mother give birth to me like this?” does sort of acknowledge the “born” element to the sentence for learners. And, who knows? Maybe the original Korean does indeed more mean she was born the way she was (due to genes), as opposed to being made a certain way (which in English, implies more one’s personality has).

Finally, line 8 is made easier if you know there’s an unspoken “모르겠다” at the end. And as for “피곤하게”, I identified it as a causative construction, as discussed by commenter dogdyedblack here.

Moving on then, next there’s just an extended version of the chorus again:

(Source)

I’m so hot 난 너무 예뻐요

I’m so fine 난 너무 매력있어

I’m so cool 난 너무 멋져

I’m so so so hot hot hot

I’m so hot 난 너무 예뻐요

I’m so fine 난 너무 매력있어

I’m so cool 난 너무 멋져

I’m so so so hot hot hot

Everybody’s watching me, cause I′m hot hot

Everybody’s wanting me, cause I′m hot hot

I’m so hot, I’m so pretty

I’m so fine, I’m so attractive

I’m so cool, I’m so cool

I’m so so so hot hot

I’m so hot, I’m so pretty

I’m so fine, I’m so attractive

I’m so cool, I’m so cool

I’m so so so hot hot

Everybody’s watching me, cause I′m hot hot

Everybody’s wanting me, cause I′m hot hot

(Source: unknown)

언제나 어디서나 날 따라 다니는 이 스포트 라이트

어딜 가나 쫓아오지 식당 길거리 카페 나이트

도대체 얼마나 나일 들어야

이놈의 인기는 시그러들지 원

섹시한 내 눈은 고소영

아름다운 내 다리는 좀 하지 원

어쩌면 좋아 모두 나를 좋아 하는것 같애

Oh no, lease leave me alone

All the boys be loving me, girls be hating me

They will never stop, cause they know I’m so hot hot

Everywhere, all the time, this spotlight that follows me

Chases me wherever I go: restaurants; the streets; cafes; nightclubs

How old do I have to get in order for

my damn popularity to wither? Sigh…

My sexy eyes [are like] Go So-young’s

My beautiful legs [are a] little [like] Ha Ji-won’s

What should I do to make things good? I guess everybody loves me

Oh no, please leave me alone

All the boys be loving me, girls be hating me

They will never stop, cause they know I’m so hot hot

(Helpful picture of Go So-young’s “sexy eyes”. Source)

First up, in lines 1 & 2, I’m a little confused as to why “this spotlight” (이 스포트라이트), which is modified by the relative clause “that follows me” (날 따라 다니는), is later described as chasing her (쫓아오지, with the “지” probably being a tag question), which seems to be unnecessary repetition; but it’s there, so hence the awkward English.

Next, the “어야” ending at the end of line 3 had me stumped for a while, as while it’s clearly not the same as the “이야” described on page 181 of Korean Grammar for International Learners (KGIL), as discussed in the last song translation, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was the very basic “~어/아/야 하다” form, which means having to do something. Eventually though, I discovered something on pages 307-308, which not only doesn’t require a “하다”, but connects it much better to the next sentence:

Line 4 after that has the wonderful “이놈의”, which means “damn”, and the final “원” in it is rarely found in written form, but basically means “sigh”. The meaning of the “지” in “시그러들다” though (to wither), I confess left my wife and I completely stumped.

Finally, at first I though the  “어쩌면” in line 7 was simply the dictionary definition of “어쩌다” (1 – occasionally; 2) accidentally, unexpectedly) plus “면” (usually “if”),  but my wife told me that the full phrase “어쩌면 좋아” means “What should I do to make [it, things] good”, which makes it very similar to the “어쩌지” of the last song translation (see #3 here for more on that).

And but for one final round of the chorus, that’s that!

(Likewise, of one of Ha Ji-won’s “beautiful legs”. Source)

I′m so hot 난 너무 예뻐요

I′m so fine 난 너무 매력 있어

I′m so cool 난 너무 멋져

I’m so so so hot hot

I’m so hot, I’m so pretty

I’m so fine, I’m so attractive

I’m so cool, I’m so cool

I’m so so so hot hot

As always, thanks in advance for pointing out any mistakes, and or giving alternate translations – I really learn a lot from them. And with this particular song, like I said I’m a little stumped as to what its about really, so thanks also for any insights you can give me!

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Filed under: Girl Groups, Korean Children and Teenagers, Korean Music, Korean Sexuality, Song Lyrics & Translations, Teenage Sexuality Tagged: 박진영, 원더걸스, JYP, So Hot

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