Accidental Mad Libs

We're all feeling lazy in Yeongwol.

The kids aren’t the only ones who are getting lazy towards the end of the school year.

I am, too.

For example, I taught my free talking class how to play ‘Yahtzee’ on Thursday. My concession to education was that they had to say the numbers in English. They didn’t do this, of course, but I let it slide.

Yahtzee went so well that we played it on Friday, too. Now I’ve got a class of fifth graders who can tell you the difference between a full house and a large straight. Maybe I won’t win teacher of the year, but I’ve done worse.

Today I pulled out another old favorite: Mad Libs.

Mad Libs were a primary source of entertainment for me between the ages of 10 and 14. Sentences like “My furry pet dolphin likes to eat squirrels,” sparked hysterical laughter, sometimes to the point of tears.  Mad Libs’ popularity hit its peak during puberty, when my friends and I filled them out like this:

adjective: sexy

plural noun: butts

adverb: sexily

verb ending in -ing: doing it (sex was like the word ‘Voldemort’ at Hogwarts. We weren’t brave enough to use it as a verb.)

So you’d get something like this: “We drove past some sexy butts and saw cows doing it. My uncle blew his nose sexily.”

Obviously, this kept us occupied for hours.

I assumed my students would be a little bit more mature with their Mad Libs, mainly because they don’t know how to say ‘butt’ yet.

That was until I gave them some ammunition.

“Does anybody know what ‘verb’ is in Korean?” I asked. Then it hit me – I knew how to say ‘verb’ in Korean.

Time to show off my skills.

“Dong-sa,” I said.

Only I must have said it like this: “ddong-sa,” because all ten of my students started cackling with laughter. Jong-woo even tumbled to the ground in seizures of joy.

“What?” I asked. “What does ddong-sa me- Oh.”

Dong-sa means ‘verb’, but ddong-sa is a variation of the word ‘shit.’

I know. It doesn’t make sense to me, either. After 14 months in Korea, I still can’t hear the difference, much less pronounce it.

Jong-woo was now experiencing muscle spasms and the other three boys were slamming their hands against their desks. Even the well-behaved girls were laughing out loud. No one was capable of saying anything besides “ddong-sa.”

“OK,” I said, trying in vain to restore order to the class. “OK. Who can give me an example of a verb?”

Stupid question.

“Elephant ddong-sa.”

“Gorilla ddong-sa.”

My ddong-sa.”

I tried to clarify that ddong-sa was actually a noun, not a verb.

In the midst of my explanation, Geun-hui remembered something and pitched forward with renewed laughter.

“Lauren,” he said, struggling to catch his breath. “You: ‘What is ddong-sa? Ohh.’ Hahahahahaha.”

Most of the boys never made a Mad Lib. Instead, they took turns saying ‘ddong-sa’ for the rest of the class.

The girls and Geun-hui pulled it together long enough to fill out their worksheets.

Most popular words included: man, woman, fat, dirty, and scary. The end results went something like this:

  • Because we collected the most women, our class won a scary pizza party. When I got to the cafeteria, my hair started to water. I could smell the gooey melted men and hot, fat crust.
  • One time I told my fat little brother to put five super-spicy men in his teeth for a full minute.
  • The doctor was a dirty woman with bad breath and a cold body.

It’s a really good thing that they’re too young to pick up on sexual innuendos.

Anything that included the word ‘fat’ was an immediate hit. I had been expecting to see a couple of ddong-sas, but there weren’t any. That’s probably because they weren’t listening when I told them it was a noun.

I feel like they learned something, but I’m not sure what it was –  That their teacher can’t speak Korean? That ‘fat’ is a really funny adjective? That if you say ‘ddong-sa’ enough times Lauren Teacher will let you roll around on the floor instead of doing work?

I don’t know. Tomorrow we might just go back to Yahtzee.

New Friend
I don't even know this kid. My teacherly aura must have summoned him.




Similar Posts


    1. For real. At least when my students say ‘shit’ in English, they’re saying it on purpose. They were still laughing about it today, so I consider the class a success. One of those successes that I hope the Korean teachers don’t get wind of.

  1. At least your classes liked Mad Libs. I tried it in my 6th grade classes and they narrowed their eyes at me and said “this is not GAME.” They thought it was funny later but really they only care about flashy powerpoint games or charades. Also, what is that statue? Why is there a deer in a school uniform next to a boy with a club?

    1. That sounds so familiar – do we teach the same kids? I hate when they call me out for not playing a game. You don’t get a game every day, okay?

      The statue…there’s a small lake in Yeongwol surrounded by various statues of deer. This is the most unusual one. I think it might be related to a Korean folk tale about a man with a goiter, but I can’t be sure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *