This is an Advanced Idiomatic Expressions lesson related to 귀, the eyes! In order to fully understand and use the expressions introduced in this series, it is essential that you understand the grammatical structure of the sentences. When you come across a grammar point that you are unfamiliar with, please go back and review the related lessons.
귀 = ear
1. 귀가 밝다 = to have good ears
(밝다 = to be bright)
→ Just like with the expression 눈이 밝다, the literal translation is “to be bright” but the actual meaning is that you have good ears. “To hear well” or “can hear well” is 잘 들을 수 있다 or 잘 들리다 in Korean but it is more natural to say that your 귀 is 밝다 in many cases. It refers to your hearing capabilities, not whether you can hear a particular sound in the certain situation. In the case of the latter, you can say “잘 안 들려요.” to mean “I can’t hear it clearly (due to other noise or small sound).”
Ex) 젊었을 때는 저도 귀가 밝았는데, 지금은 작은 소리는 잘 안 들려요.
(= I used to have good ears when I was young, too, but I can’t hear small sounds now.)
2. 귀를 기울이다 = to pay attention to a sound or to what someone says
(기울이다 = to make something lean)
→ When you want to pay attention to a certain sound, you naturally want to get your ears closer to the source of the sound. Even though what you lean is more precisely your whole body, in Korean you say that you lean ear toward something. 귀를 기울이다 can mean both “trying to hear something well” and “paying attention to what someone says”.
Ex) 아이들이 선생님이 해 주는 이야기를 귀를 기울여서 듣고 있었어요.
(= The children were listening to the story their teacher was telling them with full attention.)
3. 귀에 대고 속삭이다 = to whisper into someone’s ears
(대다 = to put something close to something else, 속삭이다 = to whisper)
→ You could just say 귀에 속삭이다 to say “to whisper into someone’s ears”, but the part 대고 is used to describe the action of going closer to someone before whispering. 귀에 대다 means to put something close to or touch the ear, and in this case, it’s someone’s mouth.
Ex) 귀에 대고 속삭이지 말고 크게 말해요.
(= Don’t whisper to each other secretly. Speak loudly (to everybody).)
4. 귀 먹다 = to be deaf, to be not able to hear
(먹다 = to eat)
→ When someone can’t hear something well, you can use the expression 귀 먹다 or 귀가 먹다. Originally the word 먹다 is to eat, but not in this case. 귀(가) 먹다 can be used to someone who can’t hear due to old age, but you can also hear people say “귀 먹었어(요)?” to someone who can’t seem to understand or care about what they hear, even though they can hear.
Ex) 저 귀 안 먹었어요. 조용히 말해요.
(= I’m not deaf. Speak quietly.)
5. 귀가 간지럽다 = to feel like someone is talking behind one’s back
(간지럽다 = to feel itchy)
There is no way to spy on everybody and know when people talk about you, but you can use this expression “귀가 간지럽다" when you refer to the fact that people talk about you when you are not around. It’s usually used in the past tense, after you find out that people talked about you in your absence.
Ex) 어쩐지 오늘 귀가 간지러웠어요.
(= No wonder my ears were itchy today. = I see that you talked about me.)
6. 귀가 얇다 = to be easily influenced by what others say
(얇다 = to be thin)
→ If your ears are thin, it will be easy for words to penetrate and go into your brain. 귀가 얇다 is a figurative way of saying that someone is easily influenced by what he or she hears.
Ex) 그 사람은 귀가 얇아서 설득하기 쉬워요.
(= He is easily influenced by what people say so he’s easy to persuade.)
7. 귀에 못이 박히도록 (듣다) = to have heard something too much already
(못 = callus, 박히다 = to be embedded, to be stuck, -도록 = to the extent of...)
→ 못 usually means “cannot” or “nail”, but in this case, it refers to callus, or the harden skin on your hand due to heavy usage. When you hear something over and over again, your ear will (figuratively) get hardened skin because of that, so when you say 귀에 못이 박히도록 (듣다), it means that you’ve (heard) something over and over again, so much that it makes you sick or upset.
Ex) 그 얘기는 귀에 못이 박히도록 들었어요.
(= I’ve heard that story so much. I don’t need to hear it again.)