On malicious napping

(Nusubito no hirune; “A thief’s midday nap”)


Even if an activity seems purposeless, it can still have a specific reason and purpose. Someone napping in the middle of the day may seem random, but for a thief the nap is important preparation for their “work” at night. Note that due to the connotations, this phrase is only used in a negative context, so it is not equivalent to the English “there’s a method to his madness.”


This is another noun phrase made of two compound nouns connected with the associative particle (no). The first is 盗人 (nusubito), made of “steal” plus “person” and meaning “thief.” The second is 昼寝 (hirune), made of “daytime / noon” plus “sleep” and meaning “daytime nap,” “siesta.” Good times.


盗人 can also be pronounced nusutto, but can not be replaced with near-synonym 泥棒 (dorobou), “burglar / robber.” A longer, full-sentence version of the phrase also exists: 盗人の昼寝も当てがある (nusubito no hirune mo ate ga aru), “Even a thief’s midday nap has a purpose.”

The shorter form appears in the Edo and Osaka iroha karuta sets.

Example sentence:


(Nusubito no hirune mo ate ga aru to iu kara, gakusei no tesutochuu no furumai ni chuumoku shinakereba naranai.”)

[“Since, as they say, for a thief even a nap has a purpose, you have to pay close attention to how the students act during the test.”]

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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4 Responses to On malicious napping

  1. locksleyu says:

    I must admit that nearly 99% of the sayings you introduce in this blog I’ve never heard of. Now I admit I am not an expert in this area, but i was wondering where you get these from?

    • Confanity says:

      Various sources. For example, I have a hard-copy 小学館 kotowaza dictionary that I pull out and browse through every now and then. The same with the online dictionaries I use. I also have a DS with 漢検 study software, and some of the problem sentences are actually kotowaza, so when those catch my eye I might write them down. And when nothing else catches my attention, I just look at the iroha karuta lists. A few I even encounter “in the wild,” as you might say, but that’s a minority. (Sorry if that’s not very helpful.)

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