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https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/38716 spurred this question. 黑鍋 - Wiktionary

  1. (literally) black wok
  2. (figuratively) blame for a crime

How did "black wok" semantically shift to mean definition 2 above? In 2020, Chinese cooking require woks that are usually black, so I can't imagine how it appertains to 'blame for a crime'?

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As a verb, 背 'carry on the back' or 'bear'. Source for picture below. 背黑鍋 - Wiktionary

  1. (idiomatic) to take the blame (for someone else); to be a scapegoat

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    Not sure it's the official version, so it appears here as a comment. Anyway the story goes that a thief when looking for something to steal in the kitchen hid behind a big 锅 when the house owner came unexpectedly. While making his escape he carried the 锅 on his back. The house owner saw this and told his neighbors that a thief stole his 锅 Later he realized that the thief only took the container of the 锅 which was still in the kitchen. So the thief was falsely blamed for stealing the 锅 with which he was "seen" carried on his back when making his escape. So, 背黑锅 became being blamed wrongly. – Wayne Cheah Apr 21 at 8:07
  • @WayneCheah interesting, it might be worth to move this comment to an answer – blackgreen Jul 12 at 22:55
  • @blackgreen. Thanks for the comment on my comment It's OK. Perhaps someday, someone somewhere might somehow find a dusty forgotten volume in a library in rural China containing the official version which may contradict my folk version and I may then have to, with tail between my legs, move it back to comment again. :) – Wayne Cheah Jul 13 at 2:54
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The Cantonese equivalent of 背黑鍋 is 替人孭鑊

鑊 is a slang for 'incident' e.g. 大鑊 (big wok = big incident). 孭鑊 (to carry the work) means 'to take the responsibility/ blame (for an incident or mistake)' . "替人孭鑊" = "take blame for someone else" = "背黑鍋" in Mandarin

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This meaning comes from a scene: two men went travel, one man want to eat rice on the road, but let the another one to carry the dirty wok which can cook rice.

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黑锅 is from 黑过, 过 means 过错, mistakes, it is similar to 王八蛋 which is from 忘八端.

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