Roundtable: What’s in a Name?
Welcome to another Roundtable!
Shakespeare’s Juliet would have us (and herself believe) “That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet,” but as far as K-pop is concerned, names play an important role. There are group names, stage names, fan names, anti-fan names, nicknames, ship names… the list goes on.
This week, we asked our writers:
Considering the vast array of choices available, what words do you use to refer to idols, and all other things Hallyu? Do you have any particularly favourite terms, and are there any that just make you want to bite your thumb at them?
Gaya: As far as shipping names go, I think we can all agree that HyukU is a better portmaneau than Ihyuk?
Amy: I think fanclub names are the best examples of names that are both uniquely great about K-pop and also uniquely embarrassing. I LOVE Hello Venus‘ “Hello Cupid” fanclub name, just like 2NE1‘s “Blackjacks.” But the hell is ELF? A Baby?? And why, oh why do Exo fans insist on calling themselves “Exotics,” even if temporary?
Fannie: There are tons of horribly mangled names in K-pop (many of them acronyms), but like Amy, my favorites are the fanclub names because despite being conscious of their ridiculousness, K-pop fans will still proudly and shamelessly proclaim themselves things like BBC or Pink Panda.
Ridiculous factor aside, other ones that bother me are Boice and Shawol. I wish they had just stuck with Blue Voice and SHINee World instead of mashing the words up into some awkward mutant offspring.
And seriously, no one knows how to pronounce “Sone” right off the bat. I know there’s technically a Korean pronunciation (“So-won”) for it but I’m pretty sure I’ve also heard Tiffany pronounce it before as “So-knee” (that’s how I say it).
I like Shinhwa‘s Changjo and Infinite‘s Inspirit. I also find the B2UTY and B2ST thing to be cute, although I’m sure it can be a bit awkward for male fans.
Amy: “Sone” is my favorite because Subi and I had a long conversation (via podcast) over this and it was a horribly confusing time.
And this name can’t not come up every time we talk about names… F.Cuz. I mean, really now.
Gaya: Oh, I remember that podcast; in fact, that was how I learnt to say “Sone” too.
While my hatred of the name “baby” and its plural form “babyz” is well known, I have a confession to make: I call B.A.P “bap.” Like, 밥 bap.
Fannie: It just occurred to me that it’s gonna be awkward when Teen Top is no longer in their teens, provided they even last that long.
Another awkward name to add to the list would be AJAX. I’m sure it was well-intentioned (as Ajax is a hero from Greek mythology), but it’s quite unfortunate that a Western brand (whose product I use to clean my toilet bowl) beat them to marketing the name years prior.
I wonder if their management is even aware of it, to this day.
Amy: Fannie, to see you explain fully what AJAX is (in America) makes me laugh even harder.
Gaya: I use AJAX to clean my bathroom.
The upside to the nicknames is that I now know how to say “anchovy” in Korean; but gods help me if anyone ever asked me to explain “SHINee” to them. I love SHINee, but I think I’d die of embarrassment.
Ambika: Isn’t AJAX also a dish-washing detergent brand? Because I’m pretty sure my roommate has some sitting around.
Gaya, I’m sure you’re not the first or last to think of B.A.P as “bap.” Daehyun did make the oh so insightful comparison of B.A.P and Baby to rice and fried tofu. And Amy, F.Cuz is my favorite to ridiculously laugh over, because come on, how did that happen?
Aww, I’ve always like the theory behind the 2AM and 2PM dynamic for One Day, though separately it gets awkward. But there are some that make me cringe when seeing them. Boyfriend? That must get uncomfortable to say. Same with SHINee and U-KISS at first glance. And I’m still not sure how to pronounce Nu’est. Is it “newest” or “New East?”
For idols, fans seem to like seizing on certain characteristics of their favorites and transforming them into nicknames. I prefer sticking with the names the idols go by rather than using nicknames to refer to the idols. I can’t picture myself using “Fishy” or “Anchovy/Monkey” for Super Junior‘s Donghae and Eunhyuk or “Dubu” for SHINee’s Onew.
I’m still confused as to how f(x) still doesn’t have a fanclub name despite being in the industry for three years.
Young-ji: K-pop won’t be K-pop without nonsensical acronyms as group names, such as High Five of Teenagers, Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality, Best Absolute Perfect, Ubiquitous Korean International Idol Super Star, New Established Style and Tempo, etc.
Or just straight up embarrassing such as SHINee, SS501, Dalmatian, Super Junior, 2PM/2AM, etc.
Gaya: I get the SS part in SS501, but what’s with the numbers?
Jasper: I’m really not a fan of the gender specific fanclub names, since it’s almost as if they’re alienating a good portion of their fans. I’m especially confused about After School‘s Playgirlz, since I’m fairly certain that the majority of their fans are in fact male. I have the same sentiments about B2ST’s B2UTY and B.A.P.’s (ugh) Baby.
Also, something I’ve noticed recently is how little Korean there are in these names, from fanclub names to especially group names. I think I first noticed how much English there really was in these names back during that poll a while ago about which girl groups would be the first to get a Hangul domain name. Only SNSD‘s name of So Nyeo Shi Dae was even vaguely recognizable by fans, and popular groups like 2NE1 ranked ridiculously low since no one could recognize their name in Hangul.
And I’m confused about f(x)‘s situation too. The potential puns and names are limitless, and some of the names pitched are definitely some of the better fanclub names I’ve heard. And yet there’s still no official fanclub for poor f(x).
Amy: If we’re going to talk about the niceness of names, I actually think f(x) is a nice name, even though it was explained in a heavy-handed way by SM.
Gaya: Oh, all the mathematical possibilities for an f(x) fan name!
Speaking of f(x), I like how the members names all match in that they’re all Western (taking a cue from Krystal and Amber, no doubt). Smart move, SM, you deserve a cookie. After you give f(x) an official fan name.
Ambika: It’s so sad since so many rookies have names, but f(x) doesn’t. Forever on the back burner of SM’s…stove?
I do like MBLAQ‘s A+ and Big Bang‘s VIP. Those are fairly solid choices. Also are adjectives like Wonderful or Everlasting (not to be confused with ELF). What is not is Hottest. Sorry, but I’d be mortified if I introduced myself that way.
Gaya: Ambika, I think SM has less of a stove and more of a six burner barbeque.
Amy: Some names are so engrained into K-pop canon that I don’t even question it anymore, but I see no real correlation between MBLAQ’s A+ and Big Bang’s VIP, so I always accepted the names, but never really knew how they were paired up. Oh well, best not to question too much.
Fannie: Looking at positives, I am glad that T.O.P ended up as T.O.P and not Mark. YG, you did good on that one. But why does Lee Hayi have to be Lee Hi?
I also quite like all the nicknames that have been “earned” on Running Man or prior to that (in Yoo Jae-suk’s case): Grasshopper, Spartakook, Ace Jihyo, Giraffe, Impala, etc.
But going back to unfortunate names… G.O.D is never going to be a not-awkward name.
At least G.O.D is usually staunchly pronounced as separate letters. Also think of Kyuhyun as Kwee-hyun.
I don’t see the correlation between Big Bang and VIP, but I think A+ has something to do with all MBLAQ members have blood type A and then the whole Absolute Quality bit from their name lends a plus? No matter, I’ll just think of it as an awesome grade saying their fans are equally awesome.
Nabeela: Well, I normally just call idols ‘idols’ or ‘K-pop stars.’
F(x) is a cute name, but when they debuted I had just learned function notation (Oh Jesus, so long ago…) and I kept calling them ‘f of x.’ That was an awkward time of my life. And about G.O.D.; I still don’t think its as bad as Crispi Crunch, or MyName, or Dalmatian.
And c’mon now, I think the Baby fanclub is kinda cute — I don’t know why everyone gets so worked about that one. I guess how I can see how the lack of gender neutrality could be off putting though. But seriously, I mean, SJ fans are ELFs. If you can be okay with ELF, you’ve got to be somewhat moderately okay with Baby.
And Gaya, your AJAX joke is going to make me cry.
Fatouma: I’m not sure when the fanclub name came about, but I remember that one of Big Bang’s earlier songs was titled V.I.P, where they continuously referred to themselves as being V.I.P so I guess the name transferred to their fans as well? It’s a nice fanclub name, calling your fans very important people. It’s the better, and less creepy way of calling them everlasting friends. I’m sorry but everlasting friends sounds like a syrupy children’s show and I hate it. I find that BTOB‘s fan club name is pretty, with Melody, and suits their name, although it’s very gender-specific. But hands down, my favourite fanclub name is Cassiopeia, although it’s so sentimental and gushy, because of the five stars and five boys, blah blah. But Cassie has such a nice ring to it and the fact that it’s a constellation makes it all the more special to me.
Exotic, as temporary as it is, rubs me the wrong way, especially since it is reference to a Korean albeit Asian boy band, who are of a demographic who have been constantly fetishized and objectified as being exotic. I might be looking at it too deeply but the name is bothersome to me for those reasons.
Nabeela: Don’t get me started on how much I hate ‘Exotic.’
Maryse: Oh, don’t even think about it Nabeela.
On the topic of U-KISS, how about their fanclub name – Kiss Me? I can’t recall the amount of imaginary buckets I’ve puked every time I come across that name.
Also other than myself being a TVXQ fan, I totally have to agree with Fatouma that Cassiopeia has got to be the prettiest fanclub name around. Even the short form for it – Cassie – is so incredibly pretty. I love BTOB’s fanclub name too.
Nabeela: Yeah Kiss Me is another bad one….. like, way to alienate the entire male half that ever loved you U-KISS.
Amy: Um, can we talk about literally all the Block B‘s members’ names? U-Kwon? P.O.? B-Bomb? WHY.
Fatouma: As much as I like them personally, all I can think about when I read U-Kwon and P.O is Yukon (because Canada) and Po from Teletubbies. I can’t with B-Bomb’s name, it sounds like I’m stammering when I say it. Still better than Feeldog. Everything is better than Feeldog.
Subi: Imma let you guys finish, but Cassiopeia had one of the best fan club names of all time.
TVXQ on a keyboard makes a constellation. Dude, who even FATHOMS that shit?
Bethany: Confession: I have never understood why Super Junior is called Super Junior. I’m sure there’s some deep meaning behind that name… but seriously? MBLAQ is another awkward one — not only does the meaning make no sense, it also makes their intros sound a little funky when they say that.
I really like B1A4‘s group name, despite the odd origin of it (blood types), but it suits them and that’s good enough for me. 2NE1 is also a clever name (props, YG), as the rest of the team has brought up already.
Nicholas: Personal pet peeves gotta be BBC (keep thinking of the British broadcaster) and 4Nia (could I ever get interested about the number 4 after what it means in Chinese). Also fan club names that openly appeal to the female half of the world (B2UTY & KISS-mes). The second hand embarrassment from those names mean I just tend to say “I like (group name) rather than using the fan-club names).
Another thing is also how gimmicky some names can be. Blood Types? “Personal Friends”? Come On! And the turning of Lee Hayi into Lee Hi could be the most cheesy pun I have heard in a long time. Basically it was off a very annoyingly long running K-Pop Star joke.
Okay rant over. I really like 2NE1, both the group and fan club names (Blackjack). Think off all the clever terms bandied around with it (21st Century styles, Playing to win as 21 is the highest score in Blackjack, futuristic New Evolution). Well I could go on, but you get the drift. I also like T-ara, partly for how the name gave off an aspiration to be at the forefront of girl groups, and the fan club name Queens pretty apt, both for how fans saw them and the group’s ambition.
As for what I would name f(x)’s fan club, I would call them “Results” or “Questions.” Questions on why fans seemingly suffer f(x)’s being snubbed in the company, and results being what happens when fans support groups.
Gaya: I think I wanted f(x) fans to be called “derivatives,” because they derive enjoyment from f(x) and that their antis could be called “integrals” or “inverses” or something; but a commenter on the site made the argument that it should be the other way around because integrals cover the area underneath a function while derivatives are tangental, only touching the function at a single point. As amazing as this relevation was, I was a bit stunned by the fact that anti names were also being considered. I don’t know any other fandom that has names for the “hatedoms” within.
Nabeela: Whoever is getting paid to come up with these names is getting paid too much.
(Images via SM Entertainment, CeCi Magazine, G-Star Raw, Elle Girl Magazine, Singles Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Fault Magazine)