It’s easy to assume in our current global environment of the Internet, online translators and AI tools that that’s enough. There’s almost no need for translators, copywriters, or proofreaders, right? Wrong—especially when non-native speakers try to play with a language they’re unfamiliar with. When people manipulate a language they aren’t fluent in, mistakes can range from mildly amusing to offensive. That’s what happened when some people came up with an interesting relationship name for a Korean celebrity couple.

I don’t follow Korean celebrities much. But I recently learned that actor Kim Bo Hyung and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo started dating. This only showed up on my radar due to an unintentionally awkward linguistic gaff. It made the headlines—and rightfully so.

A green image of a radar screen superimposed over a map of the world
Image by ikaika on Freepik

Giving celebrity couples a relationship name is common, but is it always a good idea?

Giving celebrity couple relationship names has become quite common. Some of the most famous examples are:

  • Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez → Bennifer
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie → Brangelina
  • Kanye West and Kim Kardashian → Kimye

Non-Korean K-pop fans thought doing the same for this celebrity couple would be cute. They took Bo from Kim Bo Huyn and Ji from Kim Jisoo. The result? 

Bo + Ji → Boji (it’s also been written as Bochi or Bochu)

Seems as harmless as Bennifer or Kimye, right? If you know a little Korean, it sounds kinda cute. Boja can mean “show me” or “let me see”, and this sounds similar, just cuter, right? One slight problem. Korean netizens had a field day pointing out that “Boji” is Korean slang for

An Asian woman grabbing her head in shock, perhaps after hearing the relationship name for Kim Bo Huyn and Kim Jisoo


Whoops! Maybe this wasn’t such a great relationship name after all!

All KPop reported such reactions and comments as:

  • LOL
  • Dang, should we even say ‘lucky they found out what that means?
  • This is driving me crazy lol
  • Omg!
  • I’m about to die from laughing about bochu…
  • lolol this is so hilarious,
  • I know they mean good but this is so funny
  • They don’t know what they’ve done
  • Please this is making me laugh so hard.

Unintentional or not, it was still a pretty offensive mistake to make. If the people who’d come up with this relationship name could type in Hangul, they should’ve checked. They could’ve gone to Papago, which would’ve revealed their chosen name meant “vulva”. That would’ve been the first warning.

I wasn’t too cool to check with a native speaker—a Korean native speaker

This was a pretty harmless mistake. It seems that word got out pretty quickly that this wouldn’t make a good relationship name. But if the non-native speakers who came up with it had bothered to check with a native Korean speaker, it never would’ve seen the light of day.

A young bearded man pointing upwards as if he's just come up with a good idea

I came up with my son’s Korean name. It wasn’t a name I’d ever heard before, but I liked the sound of it. But after I thought of it, what did I do? I immediately asked my Korean wife if

  1. It was a legitimate Korean name.
  2. It was an acceptable name for a boy.
  3. She liked it.

I’m not Korean, so the smartest thing to do seemed to be to check with a native Korean speaker. This shows non-native speakers can have good ideas about names and play with language. But it’s always best to check with a native speaker.

What if someone thought Boji was cute and decided to use it as the name for their cafe? That could’ve been an embarrassing and expensive mistake. We’ve seen examples of questionable English names for businesses in Korea.

While researching this post, I learned of another unfortunate Korean relationship name. Super Junior‘s Heechul and TWICE‘s Momo got combined into the unfortunate “Homo.” This is a derogatory term for a homosexual. I wouldn’t have been happy if someone used that moniker to refer to a relationship I was in.

These mistakes can’t happen that often and probably don’t get much attention, right?

This reminds me of this incident from the 2021 Olympics. A Spanish taekwondo athlete customized her belt with a Korean phrase. She thought it said, “Train hard, dream big.” Unfortunately, she wrote it as 기차 하드, 꿈 큰. The nonsensical translation was actually “Train (as in “choo-choo”) hard, dream large”. Close, but not quite. 

Scrabble tiles spelling out the phrase "Dream Big"

After the Olympics, the Korean Ambassador to Spain visited the Spanish athlete. He presented her with a new belt with the phrase written correctly in Korean—훈련은 열심히. 꿈은 크게!

Many applauded the Spanish athlete for her efforts to embrace the Korean language. Yet someone (the Korean ambassador or someone else) deemed it necessary to correct her. And that’s why I do what I do. I see these mistakes and want to help people look more professional. I like to see English used correctly. 

Both of these examples were fairly harmless. But what if you do this with your business and don’t check with a native speaker? You could be setting yourself up for failure.

But these are just humorous incidents that don’t have any meaningful impact

There’s a famous example of the Ford motor company having poor sales of the Pinto in South America—for good reason. It turns out that “pinto” was slang in Brazil for a man with small genitals. That wouldn’t have shown up in the dictionary at the time. But if they’d checked with a native Portuguese speaker, they could’ve saved themselves a lot of money and effort. They ended up rebranding the Pinto as the Corcelo, which means horse.

A slightly out of focus woman walking in front of a Brazilian flag painted on a brick wall.

Here’s another example resulting from a Nigerian-Russian partnership. The National Petroleum Corporation and Gazprom EP International B.V. formed a joint venture. Unfortunately, they chose to combine NIG from Nigeria with GAZ from Gazprom. This resulted in “Nigaz”, stylistically much too similar to the plural form of a derogatory term for black people. 

As I’ve argued before, succeeding in business is always a challenge. Why risk doing something that will make it less likely you’ll succeed, even if by just a bit? Here are some questionable names for businesses and products in Korea that I’ve come across. Most have slang meanings or cultural innuendos a non-native speaker wouldn’t be aware of. 

A package of sausages labeled as Sausage Party from a Korean store
Sausage party is slang for a social gathering with lots of males but relatively few females, thus the odds of finding a female are slim.
A Korean menu Kiosk asking "Would you like to upgrade your buns?"
Buns is slang for buttocks. Upgrade your buns makes it seem like you’re asking, “Would you like a nicer ass?”
A screenshot of the Commax website that says Cummunity Service
Cum is slang for male ejaculate. It doesn’t matter what your business is—this is an embarrassing mistake.
A slightly out of focus picture of the Korean snack, Dick Stick
Dick is slang for penis. Though it rhymes, Dick Stick is a poor name for any product, particularly one you eat.
A delivery truck for
Wang is slang for penis—do you see a theme? This could be misread as “small penis” or “mall for penises”.
A screenshot of a pet website called Bite Me
Bite me is a milder version of “f@ck off”—something you might say to someone when you’re angry and fed up with them.
A brand of Korean toothpaste called Eat Me
Eat me is similar to bite me—something you’d say to someone in frustration.
A sign for a Korean nail salon called Nail Me
Nail is slang for have sex with. Telling someone to “nail me” is inviting them to have sex with you.

Everyone makes mistakes, but you can take steps to minimize them

These examples involve slang and sexual innuendo—precisely why you should always consult with a native speaker. I’d never expect non-native speakers to be aware of these hidden meanings. But this is why consulting with a native speaker is a wise choice, especially when it comes to business. I see no downsides to consulting a native speaker but lots when you don’t.

If you have a business in Korea, I offer free consulting for small jobs or questions. If your request is too big, the worst that can happen is that I quote you a price that you don’t like. But what if I point out an embarrassing problem with your English copy for free? You won’t know until you ask. Send me a message today to find out!

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