Hello, readers! This is Mr. Tangerine returning with the bimonthly column “Jeju Playbook” to fill you in on cultural tidbits about Jeju. Visitors to Jeju are bound to be greeted with honjeoopseoye, a local idiom for “welcome” that might leave you puzzled if you aren’t in the know—think of it as Hawaii’s “aloha.” Today’s column gives you a glimpse of Korea’s most idiosyncratic dialect, teaching you a common verb ending used by Jejuites of all ages in any situation.
A Jejuite asked to demonstrate Jeju dialect will have two phrases ready: “Bam meogeon?” for “Did you eat?” and “Mwo hamaen?” for “What are you doing?” or “What are you up to?” These are fail-proof conversation starters in Jeju. Used for both statements and questions, the Jeju dialect “mwo ha maen” covers ongoing action (similar to the present continuous-ing form in English) unlike the standard Korean “mwo hae.” The Jeju suffix -(eu)maen follows a few simple rules.
1. It’s used with verbs only.
Use -(eu)maen with verbs such as eat: Bam meogeumaen? (“Are you eating your meal?”)
2. It can’t be used with past or future tenses.
These are incorrect: Bam meogeonmaen? (past base -eon) Bam meogeulmaen? (future base -eul)
3. It’s used for statements and questions, both positive and negative.
You can use -(eu)maen to answer positively: Eung, meogeumaen. (“Yes, I’m eating.”)
You can use -(eu)maen to answer negatively: Ani, anmeogeumaen. (“No, I’m not eating.”)
Now that you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to use -(eu)maen like a Jejuite!
Follow these steps to add the Jeju suffix -(eu)maen to Korean verbs.
Step 1. Start by converting a verb into its noun (nominal) form ending in-m / -eum.
hada (“to do”) → ham
bam meokda (“to eat rice or a meal”) → bam meogeum
Step 2. Add -aen to the noun (nominal) form to complete the -(eu)maen suffix.
ham + aen → hamaen
bam meogeum + aen → bam meogeumaen
Are you figuring it out? Or as a Jejuite might ask, Ihaedoemaen? As a heritage of Korea’s richly diverse language, I hope to see Jeju dialect preserved for generations to come.
Written by Mr. Tangerine