If possible, try to ween the exact right amount

Turns out it means “to suppose, to expect.”

(Ogoru Heike wa hisashikarazu; “The haughty Heike are not for long”)


Pride comes before a fall, and outright arrogance is especially vulnerable. The more a person becomes full of themselves, and allows themselves to preen and swagger and look down on others, the more likely they are to be taken down by their own overreach, or by the enemies they’ve made. A warning to be all the more circumspect when your star is in the ascendant.


We begin with the verb 驕る (ogoru). These days it’s almost exclusively used to mean “to treat somebody,” but this is derived from an older usage, “to be (excessively) proud,” by way of expressing one’s pride through extravagant spending. The verb appears in prenominal form, attaching to and describing the 平家 (Heike), a common term for the Taira clan. (The compound can be read literally as the House = 家 of the Taira = 平.) This proper noun is marked by the particle は (wa) as being the topic of discussion, and the entire comment on this topic is a single adjective, 久し (hisashi), “long [time].” The しから (shikara) ending is an alternate version of the imperfective form, and is followed by negative suffix ず (zu) in conclusive form.


As you’d expect, this comes from a passage in the Tale of the Heike (平家物語, Heike monogatari): 「驕れるも久しからず、ただ春の夜の夢のごとし」 (emphasis mine), Ogoreru hito mo hisashikarazu, tada haru no yo no yume no gotoshi – “The proud person is not for long, like unto a mere dream on a night in spring.”

A variant phrase replaces the specificity of the Heike with 驕る者 (ogoru mono), “a proud person.” Another, bleaker variant says that 驕る平家に二代なし (ogoru Heike ni nidai nashi), “the proud Heike have no second generation.” Given its cultural resonance, it should be no surprise that the Heike are associated with myriad sayings along these lines.

These days the character 驕 is a bit rare and one might be tempted – or pushed by an IME while typing – to use a homophone such as 奢 (a near-synonym referring to “extravagance”), but this is considered an error, presumably because it doesn’t accord with the original kanji usage.

Example sentence:


(“Gii-kun wa… IT gyoukai ni haitta toki, ookanemochi ni natte mo jimi na seikatsu wo okuru tsumori da tte itteta no ni, ogoru Heike wa hisashikarazu no you ni choushi ni nori makutte kara sukyandaru kara nukedasenai joutai ni ochiitta sou da.”)

[“Gii-kun… when he went into the IT world, he said that even if he got super rich, he’d lead a low-key lifestyle. But despite that, he went around getting carried away all over the place, and like how the arrogant Heike were short-lived, it seems he’s mired in scandal.”]

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Busy lake

(Yes, I know that that would actually be ビジー)


Literally: beautiful – word – lovely – phrase

Alternately: Pretty turns of speech. Flowery phrasing. Artful rhetoric. As with previous post-fodder 外交辞令, there’s an implication of speech that is pleasing on the surface but hollow underneath. And while that phrase can also refer to tact or diplomacy, 美辞麗句 is almost always used critically, of someone who mouths insincere platitudes with an ulterior motive in their heart.

Not sure what the Xes on the hat are supposed to mean, if anything.

There’s a blogger out there who really doesn’t like Abe’s policies.

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Some Kind of Progress

It’s a small thing, in the grand scheme of… well, of things. But I can’t help but find it encouraging that over the course of approximately my lifetime, tabletop role-playing games have gone from a hyper-niche hobby for the nerdy sons of suburban families – and the target of a genuine moral panic over “demonology” – to a recognized form of play for anybody at all, across any and all walks of life, that genuinely helps people grow and develop as human beings… and is gaining recognition for being able to do so.

First, just for a sense of how crazy the early response was to this imagination game, here’s a convenient NYT retrospective, with focus on the “Satanic panic”:

But mostly what’s inspired me is an article from, of all things, a little local-news rag out in Seattle (which I’ve never really been to). Their blog has articles about local politics, fluff pieces what their writers had for breakfast, an extensive roundups of upcoming events and the Seattle music scene. The last thing I expected was a piece about how teachers at a girls’ middle school had turned Dungeons and Dragons from a tentative club to a whole series of interconnected activities and even a class, but here we are:


This gives me a spark of hope for the future. The article points to the good that can be done with TTRPGs. And while the field has dramatically expanded from what it was in the 1970s (just wait until these kids get their hands on some GMless storytelling games!), it feels like there’s lots of space for it to grow in ways that we can barely imagine right now.

Just off the top of my head: if D&D as-is can be used as the backbone for a class, what happens when smart, creative people start purposefully trying to design an RPG so that it both feeds on and supports a more comprehensive learning experience? There’s a lot of potential for fields such as history, at the very least. I just hope that I get to see some of that potential realized during the course of approximately my lifetime.

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Worse than the Hounds of Tindalos

(Bonnou no inu wa oedomo sarazu;
“Even if you drive out the hounds of earthly urges, they don’t go away”)


Earthly desires will remain with you even if, and no matter how many times, you suppress them. The fight against one’s own dark side can only be won temporarily, on a case-by-case basis, rather than won once and for all in some sort of climactic battle. A dog that’s fixated on you may be chased away, but still come back as soon as your back is turned or your guard is down. All the more so for the negative emotions that stand between humanity and the Buddhist goal of detached enlightenment.


We begin with the noun 煩悩 (bonnou), “worldly desires,” “negative emotions,” or in Buddhist terms, klesha. The associative particle の (no) attaches this to and modifies the noun 犬 (inu), “dog,” which in turn is marked by the particle は (wa) as the topic of discussion. The comment about this dog comprises two verbs. The first is 追う (ou), “to chase after” or “to drive out,” in perfective form and taking the concessive particle ど (do), “even though,” intensified by the emphatic particle も (mo). The second is 去る (saru), “to go away,” in imperfective form and taking the negative suffix ず (zu) in conclusive form.


The saying may be shortened to just the noun phrase 煩悩の犬, or the 追う may be replaced with 打つ (utsu), “to strike,” to give 打てども (utedomo), “even if you beat ~.”

This saying apparently comes from an early-Edo-period collection of linked verse called 世話尽 (Sewa tsukushi), compiled by a priest called 皆虚 (Kaikyo).

Example sentence:


(“Hito wo nikumanai to kokoro no naka de chikatteita keredo, daigaku jidai no raibaru wo miru to, bonnou no inu wa oedomo sarazu, kazukazu iya na koto wo omoidashi, jibun de mo bikkuri suru hodo hara ga tatsu.”)

[“I’d sworn to myself that I wouldn’t hate anybody, but when I see my rival from my college days… the hounds of klesha return even when driven away. I remember a huge number of unpleasant things and get mad.”]

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Not a vital value: 味

(I kid, I kid.)


Literally: harmony – respect – purity – silence / loneliness

Alternately: A term from tea ceremony (茶道, sadou). The host and guests (are supposed to) create a pure (清) and tranquil (寂) atmosphere within the tea-room by opening themselves to each other (和) in mutual respect (敬).

Notes: This yojijukugo supposedly comes to us straight from the tea-master himself, Sen no Rikyū (千利休), who considered its elements to be the very soul of “the way of tea.”

That said, I mostly chose it because it contains 和, as a complement to last week’s post in recognition of the upcoming new era name 令和 (Reiwa).

There’s obviously a huge amount of nuance that I’m glossing over here; reader comments with clarifications or corrections are welcome.

Tea ceremony workshop

From this fluff piece on the Skylark Times site

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Neither the long nor the short of it

(Obi ni mijikashi tasuki ni nagashi; “Short for a belt, long for a sleeve-strap”)


In a midway state that precludes value that might be found at either extreme. Like a strip of cloth that is too short to be used as an obi-style belt but too long to be used as a strap for securing the sleeves of a traditional Japanese garment. Neither X enough nor Y enough to be useful.


This saying comprises paired parallel phrases. Each begins with a noun, marked by the particle に (ni) as being the target “to” or “for” which something else (the cloth in question) could in theory be applied through some unnamed verb. Finally, each phrase ends in an adjective, with the implication that the cloth is “too” adjective for the noun in question.

In the first iteration, the noun is 帯 (obi), any of a variety of cloth-based traditional garments wrapped around the waist and knotted in order to hold the rest of one’s clothing in place, and the adjective is 短し (mijikashi), “short,” in conclusive form. In the second, the noun is 襷 (tasuki), a cord or strap passed over the shoulders to hold the dangling ends of traditional sleeves out of the way, and the adjective is 長し (nagashi), “long,” also in conclusive form.


It may seem odd for something to be too short for a mere belt yet too long to loop around both shoulders, but my guess is that this is because Japanese obi, at least certain designs, tend to be wrapped around the body multiple times before being tied off, sometimes in huge elaborate knots.

The character for tasuki is rare and complicated, and so in some cases the word may be written out in hiragana. But what is a tasuki?

Technically, it’s not a super-specialized thing: any old string, cord, or strip of cloth that you tie over your shoulders to hold your long kimono sleeves out of the way in preparation for work or battle technically becomes a tasuki as soon as it’s put to that use.

It’s that white strip.

Example sentence:


(“Shirouto ni wa kono sofuto no yuuzaa intaafeesu wa fukuzatsu sugite, puro ni wa mono tarinasa sugiru. Zannen dakedo, obi ni mijikashi tasuki ni nagashi de tsukaenai nda.”)

[“This software’s UI is too complicated for a beginner, and too lacking for a pro. It’s a shame, but it’s too middling to be useful.”]

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In honor of the coming era


Literally: outside – mix – word – decree

Alternately: Tact and flattery. Phrasing a message to most please the listener, or going out of your way to praise and compliment them, without any sincere intent beyond the desire to get on their good side. At best, this refers to diplomatic turns of phrase; at worst, to shameless brown-nosing.

Notes: Synonymous phrases include the closely-related 社交辞令 (replacing 外 with 社, sha, “association”), and the language-centric 美辞麗句 (bi ji rei ku).

This one isn’t intended to be deeply significant – although a little more tact and consideration for others certainly wouldn’t hurt our current public discourse – other than that the new era name will be 令和 and this compound uses 令.

Me 'n the posse rustlin' up some CAREFUL PLEASING WORDS

Image search results included this generic “diplomat”

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