Friday, July 24, 2009

What does 깡통(을) 차다 mean?

깡통 refers to an "empty can." 차다 can mean either "to kick" or "to attach." If you use 차다 with the meaning "to kick," then 깡통을 차다 means "to kick a can," but if you use 차다 to mean "to attach," then it refers to "begging with a tin can." To avoid confusion, it would probably be better to say "발로 깡통을 차다" when you want to say "kick a can" since 발로 means "with one's foot."

Korean beggars used to beg with dried, hollowed out goard halves, but during the Korean War and for somethime afterwards, beggers used empty tin cans (깡통) that were apparently attached (차다) to themselves in some way. Therefore, the expression 깡통을 차다 triggers images of a time during and after the Korean war rather than a time before the war.

Today, 깡통(을) 차다 is used idiomatically to mean the following:
  • to be reduced to begging
  • to go bankrupt
  • to go bust
  • to go to pot

By the way, if 깡통 means "empty can," why do Koreans call a "can opener" a 깡통 따개? Wouldn't an "empty can" already be opened? Likewise, 깡통 맥주 (can beer) does not make sense, either, since it literally means, "empty can beer."

1 comment:

  1. How can you can a can with beer into a can of can beer?

    통(桶) means any containter like a trash can , a water bucket or a bath tub, etc.
    통(筒) is a slender bamboo tube.

    Anyway, there were 통s. In the while, a strange can appeared. It was not open,but had no stopper, no cap, no lid and no cover. Very strange. Too strange, so people called it 깡-통, which means an uttermost or ferocious container.
    It's my inerpretation

    Some say 깡- is from can, via Japanese カン(can).


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