Just as we nonchalantly drop idioms in our daily conversations in English, we wanted to introduce a Korean idiom “속담” (pronounced sok-dahm) that served as a design element in one of our recent hoodies.You might recognize these navy and light blue hoodies with the embroidery of a dog, a cow, and Korean characters. When read vertically from top to bottom, the design says “개나소나” (pronounced gae-na soh-na). This is a Korean saying that directly translates to: “any dog or any cow”. So, how is this an idiom?
To clarify, the phrase is normally used with a condescending tone and implies the meaning “anyone or everyone.” One might say “요새 개나소나 다 아이돌이야” (yoh-seh gae-na soh-na dah idol-e-yah). The literal translation is “Nowadays, any dog or cow is a Kpop idol.” The meaning might be best understood if we paraphrase this to “Nowadays, anyone and everyone is a Kpop idol.” There is a tone of mockery implying how easily something is attainable.
But why the comparison to dogs and cows?
In Korean culture, cows were revered as precious animals because they were valuable for farming and considered to be assets. Dogs, on the other hand, were deemed to be common and lowly animals - hence, a lot of Korean profanity includes the term "dog" (개 - gae). To say “개나소나….” (gae-na soh-na) or “Every dog and cow…” implies there is disregard for whether something is suitable or not, valuable or not, common or not, etc. - i.e. 개나소나 브랜드를 만든다 (gae-na soh-na brand-eul mahn-deun-dah), meaning “Anyone and everyone makes a brand.
This idiom is now more than ever relevant to today’s generation. With information and social networking accessible at our fingertips, it’s common to see brands, talents, influencers, and businesses quickly surface in all shapes and sizes. How do you express this in one phrase? 개나소나 다 한다 (gae-na soh-na dah idol-e-yah). Translation: Everyone does everything.