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[Korean Proverb] 재주는 곰이 넘고 돈은 왕 서방이 번다

wow the last proverb post was 2 months ago -.- I guess you can see how lazy I have been. To make it up, here’s an interesting proverb I picked up the other day.

재주는 곰이 넘고 돈은 왕 서방이 번다

Let’s break it down!

To be honest, when I first saw the proverb, I broke it down as “the bear is the one with the talents (재주) but Wang Seobang is the one who earns the money”. It did make some sense but something was nagging at me so I did another check and learnt a new phrase!

재주넘다: do a somersault

It’s usually used in a set phrase so it felt a little weird that they broke up the phrase in the proverb. The proverb is also a good example of how you use the topic and subject markers. These particles are known to torment Korean learners’ lives (lol) and even up till now, I still get a bit confused at times. This proverb is a good example of the use of 는/은 when you want to compare something.

왕서방. 서방 is how you address someone’s husband and in this case the person’s surname is Wang. Maybe you have heard of 왕서방 being used in other contexts before. I’ve never given much thought on this but come to think of it, why 왕? The phrase 왕서방 itself does conjure some kind of stereotype image but I couldn’t put my finger to it so.. I went to google and found this interesting article.

It mentions the phrase being linked to the “rich but stingy” image and the stereotype of a fat Chinese man with a long, thin mustache (Wang is a common Chinese surname) heehee I guess you can conjure the image already? 😛 I’m not going to touch on the topic of stereotypes but from a linguistic(?) point of view, it’s interesting that there is an image being linked to a seemingly generic addressee term.

Literal Meaning: The bear does the somersaults but Wang Seobang keeps the money

Metaphorical Meaning: The one who does all the hard work gets nothing and the credit goes to someone else

Example sentence: see Daum

Hate this kind of situations but I guess it happens quite often in the real world. :/

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Torkos Loretta Vivien
    12 October, 2018 at 3:52 AM

    This one was very interesting too, just found your blog and it’s incredibly helpful. I learn more new phrases with the proverbs and it’s also more fun ^^ Thank you

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