Learn Korean Words with K-Pop – 강남 스타일 (Gangnam Style) by Psy


Dearest TTMIK listeners and readers,

Have you recently encountered a music video by a certain Korean artist that’s gone viral like crazy with over 21,000,000 YouTube views in a matter of a few weeks? This video is seriously a worldwide Internet sensation and the world is getting hooked on the song. It has even appeared on CNN News! Do you have a clue as to what it is?

We had already selected this week’s song, which just happened to be one of the most beloved K-pop songs in recent history, but we couldn’t help but change it at the last minute. This new hit song deserves a TTMIK lesson so you can get a better understanding of the song.

We are talking about PSY’s “강남 스타일 (Gangnam Style)”!

Before we dig into the expressions from the lyrics, let’s talk about the title. It seems that many people are curious about what “Gangnam Style” means.

강남 [gang-nam] is basically 강(river)+남(south), and the term is used to refer to a wide area south of the Han River in Seoul, Korea, which includes the districts of 강남구 [Gang-nam-gu], 서초구 [Seo-cho-gu],and 송파구 [song-pa-gu]. These districts are relatively upscale and lavish compared to other areas in Seoul. They are akin to Mid-town Manhattan in New York City or Beverly Hills and Orange County in California.

So, 강남 스타일 literally means “the style from the Gangnam area.” With high-dollar real estate, upscale and luxury shopping centers and shops, lavish hotels, and a high concentration of affluent citizens, this area is regarded as “trendy” and “hip,” and people who hang out there a lot or live there may exude a certain “swag”, better known as “Gangnam Style.”

Alright, so now that we’ve covered the title, let’s move on to the expressions!

1. 원샷 때리는

If you’ve had the chance to drink with your Korean friends, or if you watch K-dramas or any Korean TV show, you may have heard the phrase “원샷” [weon-shyat] before. 원샷, or one shot, is a Konglish phrase that simply means “bottoms up.” When people take 원샷, they sometimes turn the glass upside down and shake it over their head to prove that they drank it all in 원샷.

In this song, the word 원샷 is followed by 때리다 [ttae-ri-da]. In normal context, 때리다 means “to hit,” but in this context, it’s a slang expression that’s used as a fun way to say “to do” or “to go do something.” Therefore, 원샷 때리다 can be translated as “to slam back” a drink or “to knock one back.” Typically, teenage boys and young men use 때리다 in this way, and because it’s slang, it’s important to remember that you should only use this expression to your close friends.

Take a look at these sample sentences to see how 때리다 is used in context.

Sample Sentences

오늘 영화 한 편 때리자.
[o-neul yeong-hwa han-pyeon ttae-ri-ja.]
= Let’s go to a movie today.

오늘 노래방 때리자.
[o-neul no-rae-bang ttae-ri-ja.]
= Let’s go to a karaoke today.

오늘 술 한 잔 때리자.
[o-neul sul han-jan ttae-ri-ja.]
= Let’s go to have a drink today.

한참 갈등 때리다가 짬뽕 먹었어.
[han-cham gal-deung ttae-ri-da-ga jjam-ppong meo-geo-sseo.]
= I was debating with myself for a while (about what to eat), and ended up having 짬뽕.

현우가 배신 때리고 혼자 갔어.
[hyeo-nu-ga bae-sin ttae-ri-go hon-ja gat-sseo]
= Hyunwoo betrayed me and left alone.

2. 뛰는 놈 그 위에 나는 놈

뛰다 [ttwi-da] = to run
놈 [nom] = a guy, dude (informal and can be offensive)
그 [geu] = it (Here, it is used to indicate “뛰는 놈”.)
위에 [wi-e] = above
날다 [nal-da] = to fly

This expression is adapted from the Korean proverb ”뛰는 놈 위에 나는 놈 있다,” [ddui-neun nom ui-e na-neun nom i-da] which literally translates to “there is a flying man over a running man.” The word 놈 is often used in an offensive way if it is used to refer to someone directly; however, sometimes (mostly in proverbs) it is used to mean “man” or “guy” just as it is here. The underlying message of this expression is “when you think someone is good at something, there is always someone else who is better” or “when you think that you are one step ahead of others, there is always someone else who is ahead of you, too.”

This expression is commonly used in a couple different forms:

1) “뛰는 놈 위에 나는 놈 있다더니” [ddui-neun nom ui-e na-nen nom i-da-deo-ni.] The ending, -다더니, is short for “-다고 하더니” [da-go ha-deo-ni] and expresses reported speech (“They/he/she said…” or “I heard…”) It helps you express that you are either finally agreeing with what you’ve heard about something or someone, or that what you’ve heard is not true.

For example, you have a friend who is really smart and you think he/she is a genius. One day, you meet someone who seems to be much smarter than your friend. In this particular instance, you can say “뛰는 놈 위에 나는 놈 있다더니”, which translates to, “I’ve heard that there is always someone better, and now I see that.”

2) “뛰는 놈 위에 나는 놈 있는 법이야.” [ddui-neun nom ui-e na-neun i-neun beo-pi-ya.]
법 by itself means “law”, and when used as -는 법이다 to end a sentence, it means “it’s bound to be…” or “that’s the way it works…”

Let’s say that an acquaintance of your is good at swimming and he/she is always bragging about it. However, you’ve been secretly practicing for a while, and when you finally compete against each other, you win! Now YOU can boast by saying “뛰는 놈 위에 나는 놈 있는 법이야!”, meaning “there is always bound to be someone better than you.”

All in all, PSY may be using this expression (뛰는 놈 그 위에 나는 놈) to say that since he’s the 오빠 (oppa) with 강남스타일, that he’s the flying man; HE’S the one who is better than everyone else, which is a stereotypical Gangnam mindset. And after this line, he adds “나는 뭘 좀 아는 놈,” which means “he knows what is cool and what is awesome,” implying that he is even better than the flying man. And you now know that it does not literally mean “there’s a flying man over a running man” 😀

PSY is known for his unique dance style, comical lyrics, and addictive melodies. We are really glad that he finally got the attention that he deserves! If you’re interested in listening to some of PSY’s other songs, we recommend 챔피언, 연예인 and 새. In addition to the Korean Wave, we hope that PSY will become another gateway to get worldwide audiences hooked on Korean music.

Have you listened to or watched “강남 스타일” before? What did you think? Some people out there are saying that PSY is the Korean version of LMFAO. What’s your opinion? Let us know and we’ll be back with another cool K-pop song next week!

Until next time!


This is a guest post by Youngbin Lee.
Youngbin (영빈) on Twitter: http://twitter.com/0bin

My name is Youngbin Lee. I’m a geeky engineer based in Incheon who love learning languages. Learning languages is pure pleasure to me and I’d like to help others feel the same way as I do. My ultimate goal is to become capable of communicating with you in your language. Are you with me? 😀


Learn Korean Words with K-Pop – 강남 스타일 (Gangnam Style) by Psy
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  • I hear a song it was good and were is GANGNAM style from . My sister will go to china for my little sister make her birthday there . And I will go by.

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  • Chang rye

    i don’t understand much this post.

  • chadrs

    감사합니다 영빈 씨!

    I am learning Korean and I sometimes sing 강남스타일 at karaoke. This post was really helpful! I’d like to read more posts like this, since I think it will be easier for me to remember words and grammar concepts I hear them in a song I listen to all the time.

    Thanks again!