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[Korean Proverb] 사람과 쪽박은 있는 대로 쓴다

Today’s proverbs are pretty interesting and harder to guess its meaning from the words.


사람과 쪽박은 있는 대로 쓴다

Let’s break it down!

사람:  person

과: particle meaning “and” (과 for nouns ending in a consonant, 와 for nouns ending in a vowel)

쪽박: small gourd. In this case, refers to the shell


은: subject marker

있는 대로: As it exists / as it is

쓰다: to use

Literal Meaning: Both man and gourd can be used as it is / exists

Metaphorical Meaning: In daily life, everything has its uses, even a small gourd. (can be used as a scoop / dipper / bowl). Hence, every man will have his own place in life

Example sentence: 사람과 쪽박은 있는 대로 쓰인다고 민호 씨도 자기에 잘 어울리는 일을 찾게 될 것이다

I love how Korean proverbs make use of such little things in life as a analogy to life. ^^ The Daum dictionary uses the phrase “나름대로 쓸모가 있음” and I really like it. I’ve talked about the phrase before and I like how fair and un-judgmental it is. Everybody is different and there is no right and wrong, good or bad.

Going off-track a little, but I’m suddenly reminded of the anime Shaman King, where Ryo always talk about searching for the best place, a place where he can be at ease and be himself and still be accepted. Perhaps we are all searching for our own best place. I know that I am. A best place may not be a location, it can be friends, a partner, a job you love etc. I’m still finding my own place and I hope I’m getting closer ^^

Let’s do another one, shall we?

뺨을 맞아도 은가락지 낀 손에 맞는 것이 좋다 

뺨: cheek

맞다: to be hit. If you want to say “hit somebody”, you should use 맞히다

~아/어도: grammar point meaning “even if~”

은가락지: silver ring

끼다: wear – rings, glasses, gloves (accessory with a tight fit)

손: hand

Literal Meaning: If I have to get slapped, I will rather be slapped with the hand that wears a silver ring

Figurative Meaning: Since a scolding is inevitable, one will rather get it from someone with authority instead

Example sentence: 뺨을 맞아도 은가락지 낀 손에 맞는 것이 좋다고 어차피 혼나야 된다면 사장님께 직접 말씀드리고 혼나겠습니다. (from Daum)

ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Kinda.. perverse but so true!!!!

Anyone wondering why it’s a silver ring (and not gold which is more expensive)? I’m not THAT familiar with the details, but apparently silver rings can only be worn by the noble families / people with status back in Chosun Dynasty. It’s expensive and unlikely to be owned by a commoner, but it’s more about the status instead. Commoners are banned from having a silver ring – meaning that you can be punished if you are found to own one even if that’s something that you buy after saving up for a long long time (you are likely to be deemed as a thief). I remembered reading about it in 전우치. A slave wanted to buy it for his wife (also of low status) and even after saving up for it and finally getting the ring, the wife can only wear it secretly, away from public.

That’s a long-winded explanation but essentially silver rings symbolizes power and authority in the old days.

hehe this proverb is soooo true. I think we will all prefer it (somewhat) if our bosses scold us, instead of a fellow colleague or someone below us. Less humiliating that way and somehow we are more likely to accept a scolding when it comes from someone who has the authority, right? ㅋㅋㅋ

If you like this proverb post, check out the rest here!

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  • Reply
    23 May, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Wow!!! Thanks for sharing interesting Korean proverbs and the Korean culture related to those proverbs ^^
    P/S: Could you tell me the difference between 관용어 and 속담? I’m still confused about them.

    • Reply
      27 May, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      관용어 is idiomatic phrases, 속담 is proverbs. As for the difference between idiomatic phrases and proverbs…. not too sure ^^;; I think proverbs are those that have an origin / story to them while idiomatic phrases are just words/phrases of common use…. okay I’m really not sure ㅋㅋㅋ

  • Reply
    26 May, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    Sorry I’m a bit late 😛 But thanks for more proverbs!! 😀 I really enjoy reading these also by learning new vocabulary and some grammar too. Also I didn’t know about -과 and -와 haha, and does 과/와 also have the meaning “with” sometimes also? But it’s better to use -(이)랑 and -하고?

    Yes definitely true for the 2nd proverb haha, it’s funny in the Korean tv shows hahaha

    • Reply
      27 May, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      ㅋㅋㅋ yup it means the same! 하고 is more for formal writing, 과/와 for ermm normal writing and 랑 for casual speech. ^^

      • Reply
        28 May, 2013 at 1:49 AM

        알았죠! ^^ 고마워요~~

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