Korean Idioms & Proverbs: 도토리 키 재기
Another week has passed so why not end it with a little proverb. This week’s proverb was a bit of challenge for me since I could not find a single English or Dutch proverb that matches its meaning. The proverb is 도토리 키 재기 and litterally it means “Comparing the height of acorns”. So let us start comparing the height of our acorns like the Koreans.
As mentioned the proverb “도토리 키 재기” was quite a challenge to me. I really couldn’t think of any English or Dutch proverb that I felt was its equivalent. So I cannot offer you an easy reference point. Anyway as I also already mentioned, this proverb litterally means “Comparing the height of acorns”. As you can imagine, measuring and then comparing the height of acorns is meaninglessly fussing over insignificant differences and that is exactly what this idiom means. You use it in a reaction to people who argue over which one is better by comparing over an insignificant detail. That is to Koreans “도토리 키 재기”.
The proverb 도토리 키 재기 is a very situational proverb that you will generally use on its own as a reaction. Because of that you really needn’t worry over how to fit it in a sentence. That removes a lot of the challenges you face when learning other Korean proverbs. You just need to remember this proverb and it means. Let us look at an example of usage:
농부 A: 우리는 닭 5마리가 있어요. 풍족해요. (We have 5 chickens. We are well off)
농부 B: 하! 풍족하지 않아요. 우리는 소 1마리와 닭 5 마리가 있어요. 난 정말 풍족해요. (We have 5 chickens. We are really well off)
왕: 도토리 키 재기. 이 나라가 내거야. (Comparing the height of acorns. The entire land is mine.)
Have you seen this expression before? Or perhaps you’ve used it in a text you’ve written yourself! Please share your experience in the comments. You can more easily learn expressions when you actively use them yourself.