Have you ever experienced your mind go BOOM? Have you ever experienced your mind crumble into dust and fly away to an unknowable dimension? Have you ever experienced a mind paralysis which left you completely lost for words? Have you ever experienced spacing out as if your mind’s power system has been abruptly switched off? If you have nodded your head in agreement to any of these bewildering situations, I congratulate you for experiencing the realm of menboong. If you haven’t, worry not for a menboong will surely come seeking for you during your stay here on Earth.

So what exactly is a menboong? Menboong is a new Korean Internet slang, which emerged from combining the first syllables of the English word mental and the Korean word boong-gweh, meaning collapse. Mental comes from the Latin word mens meaning “mind,” while boong-gweh from the Chinese characters 崩壞 meaning “to fall apart.” Hence by joining these two words, we get a neologism that describes the sudden psychological phenomena where our minds experience an extreme impact, causing our mental to temporarily collapse. Therefore, we can say that menboong is a state where we become lifeless dolls, where we become zombies due to our mind’s eye only perceiving a white blank void in our heads.

The coining of menboong came from dcinside gallery, a South Korean Internet forum, in 2008. It was first used to express the temporary mental shock that StarCraft gamers experienced due to unexpected defeats. However, menboong’s increasing popularity later changed its definition to be the temporary mental shock that people experienced due to unexpected events. Since then, the use of menboong has spread all over the Internet like a wild forest fire: unstoppable and unquenchable. It has even succeeded in infiltrating the entertainment industry and has often been used in dramas, comedy programs and variety shows. Moreover, menboong has firmly embedded itself in the daily conversational language of South Koreans. Through these reasons, menboong has now become the sensational word of South Korea.

Despite the common use of menboong, the ambiguity of its definition has made some people confused about its proper usage. According to Min, I found out that there are generally four situations wherein the use of menboong is applied (1). First is in an absurd situation. Imagine that you rode a taxi to school. As you are about to pay the driver his due fee, you can’t seem to find your wallet in any of your pockets. Then you frantically start foraging your bag, but your wallet isn’t there as well. You start to realize that you got caught in the forgot-the-wallet scenario. As soon as you accept this painful truth, your mind goes BOOM and you experience a menboong. Second is in an embarrassing situation. Let’s say that you were in a large classroom with 100 students. The professor asks a question to the class and you seem to know the answer for sure. You raise your hand and proudly say your answer in a very loud voice. You feel very confident of yourself until you realize that something has gone amiss. You look at the faces of your professor and classmates. They are laughing at you. You are bewildered by their weird responset until the reason behind their laughter hits you. You have given the wrong answer. Having experienced this embarrassment, your mental state then must have crumbled into dust and flown away to the realm of menboong. Third is in a sad situation. Menboong can also occur when we suddenly lose someone or something that we truly love. This causes our mind to undergo a paralysis. Our brains lose the function to think properly and become a vacuum. Not only that, our emotional spectrum goes haywire making us feel hollow inside. The shock from this case of menboong also deprives our ability to react and makes us completely lost for words. Fourth is in an angry situation. This usage of menboong can only be applied when intense anger is conceived from having been offended or wronged. For example, let’s say that you lent 1,000,000,000 pesos to your most trusted friend since kindergarten. However, your “best friend” uses you and disappears without even reimbursing a single peso. The anger from this betrayal will turn your blood upside down; it will want to make you scream like a banshee. But the anger is so intense that it drains all of your hatred, leaving you to space out as if your mind’s power system has been abruptly switched off.

Also users should not confuse menboong with mental breakdown. Though these two words may seem very similar, they are different from each other. Menboong is short-lived; mental breakdown is long-lived. Menboong is a scratch that is easy to recover from, while mental breakdown is a deep cut that requires a lot of time and effort to gain recovery. Menboong is like a stealthy thief, striking us when we least suspect it to happen. Mental breakdown is like a mighty warrior, affecting us even though we are aware of its coming. Where menboong comes from shocks, mental breakdown comes from stresses.

Now that you have read this post, I am absolutely sure that your life will never go back to what it used to be. You will never experience the feeling of being lost for words. You will never experience the feeling of spacing out as if your mind’s power system has been abruptly switched off. You will never experience your mind’s eye perceiving a white blank void in your head. For whenever you encounter a bewildering situation, your mind will only be completely filled up with this one magical word—menboong.

Yoon, Hyung Tong




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