Sal mirabilis


Literally: extensive – pull – to the side – evidence

Alternately: As one member or side of a dispute or controversy, supporting one’s case by citing an extensive body of examples or material. Presenting a solid, perhaps overwhelming, amount of evidence.

Notes: This practical yojijukugo is a compound of compounds; 博引 refers to using a wide array of materials or examples to explain something; 旁証 refers to presenting evidence.

Note that the 旁 character is rare these days; it can be (and often is) replaced with close relative 傍 without any change in pronunciation or meaning.


Not a Japanese example, but too topical to pass up.

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A midden of lucre

(Hakidame to kanemochi wa tamaru hodo kitanai;
“Dunghills and money get dirtier as they accumulate”)


The more money someone has, the more money they want; an increase in wealth tends to bring increasing greed and selfishness rather than contentment.


We begin with the verb 掃く (haku), “to sweep,” in conjunctive form. This connects it to 溜める (tameru), “to accumulate (something).” This verb is also in conjunctive form, but here the form allows it to act as a noun. (One could also argue that haki is acting as a noun as well, making this phrase a compound noun.) Put together, 掃き溜め refers to a heap of trash or manure.

Jumping forward just a bit, we find the noun 金 (kane), “metal,” especially “gold,” or by extension, “money,” compounded with another verb-derived noun; this one from 持つ (motsu), “to have.” A money-haver, of course, is a rich person. This compound noun is joined to the hakidame with exclusive-and particle と (to, pronounced like “toe”), i.e. “this and this (and not particularly any others).” The category of these two things is then marked as the topic of conversation by particle は (wa).

The comment on this topic is the adjective 汚い (kitanai), “dirty,” in conclusive form. This is preceded and modified by noun ほど (hodo), “degree,” “extent,” which links the dirtiness to the verb 溜まる (tamaru), “(something) accumulates,” in prenominal form.


A variant saying switches and replaces things a bit, giving 金持ちと灰吹きは~ (kanemochi to haifuki wa…), the dirty things in this case are “rich people and ashtrays.”

Example sentence:


(Hakidame to kanemochi wa tamaru hodo kitanai to iu kara, binbou kara nukedashite, tanjun ni seikatsu ni komaru koto no nai kurashi ga dekireba sore de ii to omotteta. Kedo, kono kotowaza wo yoku kangaete miru to, donna teido de are, okane wo moteba komaru koto ga fuete iku to iu koto nan ja nai ka to omou.”)

[“They say that like a trash heap, money only gets dirtier the more you pile on, so I thought that it would be best if you could just get enough to escape from poverty and simply live without any worries. But thinking about the saying, I realize that no matter how much money you have, it only gives you more to worry about.”]

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In truth, I’m feeling feint


Literally: empty – empty – truth – truth

Alternately: Two sides in a fierce battle, using every strategy and wile they can think of. Striving to avoid your enemy’s strengths (実) and attack their weaknesses (虚). Alternately, using a mixture of truth and falsehood in an attempt to draw out someone’s true feelings.

Notes: The second of each doubled character may be replaced with the doubling mark 々… but please use it for either neither of them, or both; don’t use it with just one kanji and leave the other.


Just a regular newspaper Go puzzle

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The evillest nom

(Kaiinu ni te wo kamareru;
“Bitten on the hand by your pet dog”)


To be betrayed or harmed in some way by someone you had deeply cared for, or taken care of on a regular basis. (In other words, it doesn’t apply to a stranger whom you once did a favor for, etc.)


We begin with the verb 飼う (kau), “to keep / raise / feed (an animal),” in conjunctive form, which allows it to function as a noun. This noun compounds with, and modifies, the noun 犬 (inu), “dog.” Direction particle に (ni), “from,” marks the dog-one-raised as the source of the verb 噛む (kamu), “to bite.” This verb appears in imperfective form and takes the passive formation れる (reru). The direct object of the “being bitten” is marked by particle を (wo); this object is the noun 手 (te), “hand.”


This is interesting, because in English we have a parallel saying, “to bite the hand that feeds you.” The content is almost exactly the same (although the English lacks the canine specificity and could apply to a one-off favor being repaid with harm), but from the opposite point of view.

Example sentence:


(“Rei no jouin giin wa dare yori mo saki ni ano kakumeiteki na seijika wo shien shita ippou de, dare yori mo bari zougon wo abisarete, dare yori mo saki ni suterareta. Hitokoto mo kuchi wa kikanai ga, nouri de kaiinu ni te wo kamareta to kangaeteiru n ja nai ka na.”)

[“Although this senator gave his support to that revolutionary politician before anyone else, he was also showered with abuse more than any other, and thrown away before any other. He doesn’t say anything about it, but in the back of his mind he must feel like he was bitten by the dog he’d raised.”]

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See also: obstruction of justice


Literally: proof – foothold / based on – conceal – destroy

Alternately: Destruction, suppression, or concealment of evidence. This phrase may be used metaphorically, but is most commonly encountered as actual criminal-justice jargon.

Notes: Some legal contexts may replace 拠 with 憑 (rare character hyou, similarly “depend on,” “evidence” as well as, less relevantly here, “haunt” or “possess”) or add 罪 (tsumi), “crime” or “sin.” Note that in Japanese law, 証拠隠滅 falls under the broader crime of 犯人蔵匿及び証拠隠滅の罪 (hannin zoutoku oyobi shouko inmetsu no tsumi), literally “the crime of harboring a criminal and destroying evidence,” AKA “spoliation of evidence.”


An amusing presentation that alludes to a certain Sci-Fi anime, from this random blog.

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Not even jackalopes, please

(Kairyoku ranshin wo katarazu; “Speaking not of spirits and demons”)


A wise person does not indulge in talking about irrational or unreasonable things; a great person does not dabble in conspiracy or superstition. When you make an assertion, you need to make it based on facts and evidence rather than vague supposition or unconfirmed impressions – especially if you’re in a position where your words have power.


This simple phrase is completed by the verb 語る (kataru), “to talk about,” “to tell (a story),” in imperfective form and with negative suffix ず (zu) in conclusive form. The particle を (wo) tells us the object of this verb; in this case, compound noun (and yojijukugo) 怪力乱神 (kai ryoku ran shin), literally “mysterious power disordered god(s),” but taken together, referring more generally to mysterious or supernatural phenomena.


This admonition comes to us from the Analects of Confucious (論語, Japanese Rongo).

There are contexts in which 怪力 may be pronounced kairiki. This saying is not one of them.

Example sentence:


(“Canada no sonzai wa tada no toshi densetsu da nante iu inbousetsu wa asobi ni shitara omoshiroi kamoshirenai kedo, sasuga ni joushiki ni sakaratteru kara, tomodachi no aida de shika hanasanai hou ga ii. Kairyoku ranshin wo katarazu tte iu nda.”)

[“It might be entertaining to play around with conspiracy theories, like saying that Canada is just an urban legend. But it does go against common sense, and it’s something best saved for when you’re with friends. In other situations there’s no call for Bigfoot stories.”]

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What you don’t know CAN kill you


Literally: summer – insect – doubt – ice

Alternately: A person of extremely limited experience, knowledge, and discernment. Someone ignorant, doubtful, or distrustful of everything that falls outside of their own (meager) personal experience. Like an insect that is born and dies all within the span of a single summer, which does not believe that winter ice even exists.

Notes: For historical reasons, this may also be read as 夏虫氷を疑う (natsu mushi koori wo utagau); “ice” may also be rendered with the rare/archaic character 冰 without any change in meaning or pronunciation.

This reportedly comes to us from foundational Taoist philosopher Zhuang Zhou (荘子, Japanese Sou Shi), aka Zhuangzi, found in the “Autumn Floods” (秋水, Shuusui) section of the eponymous Zhuangzi text.

There are also longer kotowaza variations on this theme, including the cute image of 夏の虫冰を笑う (natsu no mushi koori wo warau), “the summer insect laughs at (the idea of) ice.”

A section of a principal’s address to an elementary school, although he inverts the saying by suggesting that the listeners don’t even know “true heat.”
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