Nagging, nitpicking and scolding

Some English learners have questions about trying to use the word 잔소리 in English. There is no direct translation so most dictionaries give you the three words: nag, nitpick and scold. But we have to use these in different situations.

Nag

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“Nag” is when someone (usually a spouse, parent or friend) complains often about something that you don’t think is worth complaining about. “My wife nags me for drinking too much” implies she is doing the wrong thing and the drinking isn’t a problem. “My mom nags me for not taking out the garbage.” “My friends nag me for not hanging out with them.” The complaint has to be repeated, annoying and trivial to you. Unfortunately this is more often used with females, the stereotype being a “nagging wife.”

Nitpick

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“Nitpick” is to complain about small details, little things that aren’t important. “My friend always nitpicks about pizza toppings.” “My coworker nitpicks so much about the format of the report that we can’t even get it started.” Nitpick is less confrontational than nagging, and doesn’t imply any relationship between the complainer and the person listening.

Nagging is about a person’s faults, nitpicking is usually not directed at a person.

Scold

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Scolding is different from the other ones. Scolding is complaining to someone about their actions or behaviors- but in this case the person being scolded definitely did something wrong.

Nagging and nitpicking are thought of as annoying and useless complaints, scolding is justified.

Funny vs. Funny

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“I like your sister, she’s really funny.

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“Your sister seems a little funny.

On the surface these two sentences may seem to have similar meanings. You will notice a difference in tone (the word stress in the sentence) however. “Funny” can mean “comical or humorous, able to make someone laugh” or it can mean “strange, weird, off-putting.”

This second definition is less common, it is used when you are not 100% sure if there is a problem with a person, thing or situation – but you get a feeling something is wrong.


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“I’ve got a funny feeling about this.”

“I’ve got a funny feeling about this.” Is a common phrase to hear someone say in a horror movie as they enter a scary situation.

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“My science teacher seems funny. Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’.”

“My science teacher seems funny. Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’.” Is the way you might describe someone that seems strange or unusual. The “Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’” part is sometimes added for clarification.

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“My shoulder has felt funny since the baseball game last week,”

“My shoulder has felt funny since the baseball game last week,” would be a way to say that there is a little pain, or an unusual feeling in the shoulder.

It’s important to note that most things that are comical or humorous are also “funny” and enjoyable because they are strange or unexpected. So the definitions are actually related.

The best way to tell the difference is just by context and tone.