I love sleeping a good solid 8 to 12 hours. Even on weekday mornings, I turn off my phone alarm and burrow under the covers, waiting to get up until the last possible minute and muttering to my partner, “Deo jago sipeo 더 자고 싶어,” I want to sleep more.
So he calls me jam-kkureogi (잠꾸러기)…basically every day.
Fortunately, jam-kkureogi is a pretty cute word. It’s basically the Korean word for sleepyhead and, I am 99% sure, is a native Korean word.
The Sleepyhead Who Became a Cow: A Korean Folktale
I am not the first sleepyhead in the world. A Korean folktale tells the story of a boy – alternately called a jam-kkureogi and a ke’eureum-baengi 게으름뱅이 (lazy person) – who loves sleeping and wishes he could be a cow (well… I think technically a steer or an ox) so he could sleep all day. His dream is shattered when he actually becomes an ox and discovers how hard it works. The cartoon version below is in English, though this one (in Korean) is my favorite.
It’s actually one of those kind of sad and scary children’s tales with a very clear “be good or else” warning… Not my favorite brand but I have created an alternate version, Wicked style, in my imagination, so it’s all good. I really think the kid ought to have wished to be a house cat like I do.
How to say sleepyhead in Korean
So, how do you actually say jam-kkureogi, and what exactly does it mean?
The first part of the word, jam 잠, means sleep – it’s a noun form of jada 자다, to sleep. A common way to make nouns out of many Korean verbs is to add -ㅁ (m sound) to the last syllable before the -da -다, which is the last syllable of any basic (infinitive) Korean verb. So, you take the ja, add the m, and you get jam – pronounced more like a Brit might say “jam and bread” than an American would, i.e., “jahm.” Sorry Brits, I know there are a million British accents, it’s hard to explain pronunciation without resorting to technical language – so hard in this case that I’m including an audio file of my probably imperfect but not wildly far off pronunciation of the word:
The second part of the word, kkureogi, kind of rhymes with (how I say) pierogi, though with a “long u” in the first syllable. It can be affixed to a lot of nouns, and the resulting word indicates that the person being so called really does that thing a lot or likes that thing a lot or otherwise has a great affinity for that thing. Daum English Dictionary translates it as “overindulger.” A couple of common examples include:
Jangnan-kkureogi 장난꾸러기: Formed from jangnan 장난, or “prank,” and kkureogi, this is a Korean word for a mischievous kid – a rascal or prankster.
Simsul-kkureogi 심술꾸러기: Adding kkureogi to simsul 심술, or “cross temper,” makes this word that means a pouty person in Korean.
Name-calling in Korean
-Kkureogi is only one of several endings (more properly, lexical units) that can be attached to a noun and used to call someone a name. I plan to go over a few of the others -jaengi 쟁이, -jangi 장이, and –kkun 꾼, for example – soon. An important thing to know for now is that -kkureogi is rather lighthearted compared to some others – if you call someone (for example) a sul-kkun 술꾼, you’re basically calling them a heavy drinker, and…. that’s usually not as cute as a sleepyhead. But -kkureogi has a kind of childish connotation to it.
Romanization: Revised romanization
Multilingual life partner