(Zen wa isoge; “Hurry to do good”)


“Strike while the iron is hot.” Specifically, if you think of something that would be good to do, something worth doing, something worthy – do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. If you have a good idea, a new year’s resolution, a plan – do it now! You can come back and finish reading this post later, I promise. (If your idea is “study more Japanese,” of course, please stay: that’s what you’re already doing.)


(zen) is a noun meaning “virtue,” “good(ness).” It’s followed by the topic-marker or emphatic particle (wa), and the transitive verb 急ぐ (isogu), “to hurry (something)” in imperative form. An obsessively literal rendition might go “As for good(ness), do it quickly.”


The phrase can be extended by adding its inverse, 悪は延べよ (aku wa nobe yo), “delay doing evil.” In this phrasing, the first should probably be interpreted as emphatic, and the second (the in 悪は) as contrastive. Finally note that, in Japanese if not in English translation, this saying is considered antonymous with 急がば回れ.

Example sentence:

「明日から、毎日ジョギングすることにした」 「あ、良いね。これからでも一緒にしない?善は急げだよ」

(“Ashita kara, mainichi joggingu suru koto ni shita.” “A, ii ne. Kore kara de mo issho ni shinai? Zen wa isoge da yo.”)

[“I’ve decided that I’ll go jogging every day, starting tomorrow.” “Oh, that’s a good idea! Why not do it now, together? ‘Strike while the iron is hot,’ you know.”]

Number One...

You’re not going to argue with the best captain, are you?

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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2 Responses to Now!

  1. Pingback: The sunny ant of the high seas | landofnudotcom

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