Just lettin’ things flow

I just now realized that today is Monday. Ironically, while I managed to maintain my posting schedule rigorously even during the end-of-semester crunch, as soon as summer vacation starts I find myself losing track of time. Please accept my apologies, and this belated kotowaza.

To avoid overlap, the scheduled Magic Monday post will accordingly be moved to tomorrow.

立て板に水
(tateita ni mizu; “water on a standing board”)

Definition:

Fluent, uninterrupted speaking. Being able to produce words, in a continuous stream, as smoothly as water runs down a plank that has been propped up into a standing position.

Breakdown:

We begin with the verb 立つ (tatsu), “to stand,” modifying the noun (ita), “board,” “plank.” This is connected to another noun, (mizu), “water,” with the directional particle (ni). And that’s all!

There’s actually a bit of a mystery here for me: what form is the verb taking? I mean, due to being attached to a noun like that I’d have to guess prenominal form (連体形). In classical grammar the verb 立つ behaves differently based on whether it’s being used transitively or intransitively, but in neither of these cases is 立て the prenominal form! Is this just a less archaic version of the grammar, or is something else going on that I hadn’t thought of?

Notes:

Writing the noun phrase as 立板 (still pronounced tateita) is acceptable, but using other kanji (縦板 or 建て板, both pronounced the same and with related meanings) is considered an error. A longer form, 立て板に水を流すように (tateita ni mizu wo nagasu you ni), “like pouring water on a standing board,” also exists.

The shorter form is included in the Kyoto iroha karuta set. Incidentally, while with this phrase we’re looking more at an “expression” than a “saying,” they both fall under the kotowaza rubric in Japanese.

Example sentence:

「通訳の訓練のお陰で、田中君が英語を立て板に水を流すようにぺらぺらと話せるようになったみたいだね」 「いいなあ」

(“Tsuuyaku no kunren no okage de, Tanaka-kun ga eigo wo tateita ni mizu wo nagasu you ni perapera to hanaseru you ni natta mitai da ne.” “Ii naa.”)

[“It looks like, thanks to all that interpreter training, Tanaka can just talk and talk and talk fluently in English.” “Aw, nice.”]

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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