Half- …hiding it

Continuing the theme of hiding from last week:

頭隠して尻隠さず
(Atama kakushite shiri kakusazu; “Hiding the head, not hiding the butt.”)

Definition:

This saying refers to a situation where somebody has done something wrong, or has a flaw or failing of some kind. They believe that they have hidden it and won’t be found out – but they only managed to conceal part of the problem; the rest is plainly visible and they only look all the more the fool for it. A mocking kotowaza.

Breakdown:

Two nouns and two verbs. (atama) is “head,” or by extension the top, front, beginning, leader, or brains of something. (shiri) is “rear end,” or by extension the underside, end, or consequence of something. 隠す (kaku.su) is still to hide or conceal; in classical Japanese, the (.shi) form is conjunctive, with the assertive/perfective helper particle (tsu) also in conjunctive. The (.sa) form is imperfective, followed by the negation-particle (zu) in sentence-final form.

Notes:

This kotowaza is mildly notable for its inclusion in the Edo Iroha Karuta card set. (Which, now that I think about it, I may look into and mine for more sayings.)

It is said to have come from China, and is based on the belief that a pheasant (, kiji), when chased, will hide its head in the brush but leave its tail visible. An equivalent that is probably better-known to most Americans is the (mistaken) belief that a frightened ostrich will hide its head in the sand, leaving the rest of its body plainly visible -although when we talk about ostriches we tend to imagine them as hiding from an unpleasant truth, rather than trying and failing to hide something from others.

Example sentence:

「健ちゃん、クッキー食べたでしょ」 「ううん、食べてない」 「ほら、口はちゃんと拭いてても、クッキー箱は床に置いたままで、頭隠して尻隠さずよ」

(“Ken-chan, kukkii tabeta desho.” “Uun, tabetenai.” “Hora, kuchi wa chanto fuitete mo, kukkiibako wa yuka ni oita mama de, atama kakushite shiri kakusazu yo.”)

[“Ken, you ate some cookies, didn’t you.” “…Nooo, I didn’t.” “Look, even though you wiped your mouth off well, with the cookie jar left on the floor like that, it’s like hiding your head and leaving your butt showing.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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