tchaksarang is Korean for a crush

tchaksarang 짝사랑: when love is unrequited

Keeping it short today, as 1) I realized I actually have little to say on this word, and 2) I am still recovering from our trip to Korea, where I took lots and lots of photos for future posts here and elsewhere. So:

Tchaksarang (짝사랑, or jjaksarang in Revised Romanization) is the Korean word for a crush, as in, “I have a crush on that boy.” It’s pronounced “jahk-sah-rahng,” or at least, that’s as close as I can get without using special International Phonetic Alphabet symbols—it’s tricky to explain the double consonant (like ㅉ) thing in English.

Actually, tchaksarang is not a new word at all—it’s at least 80 years old and probably older—but it’s still commonly used. (There’s probably a much newer word that I’m just not cool enough to know.)

Tchaksarang is made up of two parts. The second part, sarang, means love, and the first part, tchak, means something like one part of a pair, so you can see how it might mean crush. Possibly, tchaksarang  is an abbreviation of oetchak sarang (외짝사랑), where oetchak means something like “unable to form a pair and instead being just one,” or, well, something very similar to solo. At least one person on the internet, on this forum, seems to think that’s the case, anyway. The National Institute of Korean Language (국립국어원), in a 2012 tweet, just says 짝사랑 and 외짝사랑 are synonyms, however, and that the oe (외, pronounced something like “way” or “weh”) is an affix that means alone or one way.

Crushes in Korean culture

Unsurprisingly, tchaksarang features heavily in Korean dramas and songs, although really, there are lots of cases where characters think they are in tchaksarang but it turns out to be ssŏm. And it’s been part of popular culture since at least the 1930s, as in this 1937 song (which I like more than I expected) by Ko Bok Soo (고복수). Enjoy!

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