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Where did the idiomatic phrase 바가지(를) 쓰다 (to pay through the nose; to pay for a ripoff) come from? 바가지 itself is orginally a gourd or plastic bowl, but what is the connection between a bowl and a ripoff?

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The most popular theory is that it orginated from gambling. As you can see here,

이에 대해서는 대체로 개화기에 중국에서 들어온 ‘십인계(十人稧)’라는 도박과 관련하여 설명한다. ‘십인계’는 1에서 10까지의 숫자가 적힌 바가지를 이리저리 섞어서 엎어 놓고 물주(物主)가 어느 숫자를 대면 그 숫자가 적힌 바가지에 돈을 거는 노름이다. 돈을 걸고는 바가지를 뒤집어 각자 앞에 놓인 바가지의 숫자를 확인한다. 물주가 말한 숫자의 바가지에 돈을 건 사람은 다른 숫자의 바가지에 내기를 건 사람의 돈을 모두 갖는다. 만약 물주가 말한 숫자의 바가지에 아무도 돈을 걸지 않았을 경우에는 물주가 손님이 건 돈을 전부 가져 간다. 이렇듯 바가지에 적힌 숫자를 맞추지 못했을 경우에는 돈을 잃기 때문에, 손해를 보는 것을 ‘바가지 쓰다’라고 했다는 것이다.

translated, this means

The theory is that during the period after the Gabo Reform, there entered a form of gambling from China (十人稧) . The dealer mixes 10 bowls on which are inscribed 10 numbers from 1 to 10, the declares a randomn number. Then, people each take a bet on a bowl and flip it, to see what number is written on it. If the number the dealer said is written on one person's bowl, the person is able take take all the other person's money. However, if no one gets it right, then the dealer gets it all. Thus, if you didn't get the bowl with the right number on it, you would lose money. So "바가지를 쓰다" because synomynous with "losing money" or "ripoff".

However, it is also mentioned that this theory is hard to accept, and it's true origins remains a mystery.

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  • Thanks a lot for the full translation - interesting stuff! – topo Reinstate Monica Jan 29 '17 at 9:51

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