What does 설왕설래 (說往說來) mean?

I’ve been wondering what to write since starting Medium few minutes ago, so I’ll just jot down some Korean words I encountered this week while watching Korean dramas.

I’ll start with 설왕설래(說往說來) because the definition on Naver’s dictionary is vague.

What does 설왕설래 mean?

설왕설래 (說往說來)


An idiom!
Literally translated to ‘say there say here’, it means saying things back and forth, in a circle without getting anywhere. In English, the closest resemblance would be ‘beating around the bush’, but not quite.

From Namu’s Wiki:

Literal meanings of each word in 설왕설래
Literal meanings of each word in 설왕설래

설 = saying words (theory/words)
왕 = going
설 = saying words (theory/words)
래 = coming


Imagine a scenario like this. You’re having a discussion. Even though you’ve made a point, it doesn’t matter. The result is still the same regardless.

The second scenario would be a person, say a politician, making excuses. Whatever the person says, it doesn’t justify his or her actions.


Example from Naver’s dictionary
Example from Naver’s dictionary

Let’s break down.

그 = that
사건 = case
의 = ‘s
진위를 = authenticity (truth) + 를 (we know an action verb will follow)
놓고 = “put down” (them “putting aside”/not caring about the authencity) + 고 (“and”)
여러 사람이 = several or a few people, not ‘everyone/all people’
설왕설래했지만 = “said this said that” + 했지만 (past tense for action verb + but)
진실은 = truth (진위 vs 진실: both mean truth coming from 진 which means “true”, but 진위 point to genuity/authenticity, true behaviour/action; whereas 진실 means the cold hard truth. In this example, it can be used interchangeably.
밝혀지지 않았다 = 밝히다 (to light up, in this case, to reveal, like a torch lighting up a dark space, bringing the matter into ‘light’) + 지지 않았다 (not) = not revealed

Overall meaning
Imagine a group of people talking this and that about the case, while not caring about the truth of the case. Even though they made their points, nothing changed: The truth was still not revealed.

That’s all from this piece. Perhaps my explanation is too literal, but that’s how I like to learn foreign languages. I don’t see the need to translate the way that English native speakers would feel comfortable with, the translation loses too much meaning that would have been useful in your learning. We’re all humans, our comprehension is not too different. Perhaps my future piece would be, “Why Netflix official subtitles suck”.



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Stacking Tabs

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