Now I’m caught on the phrase “ear-spoon.”


(Shakushi wa mimikaki ni narazu; “A ladle can not be used as an ear-spoon.”)


This saying directly opposes last week’s 大は小を兼ねる. It declares that a larger thing can not necessarily fulfill the role of a smaller one, by offering a clear example in which it would be impossible.


We start with the noun 杓子 (shakushi), “ladle.” The particle (wa) marks it as the topic of the phrase, and implicitly contrasts it with the following noun – 耳掻き (mimikaki), “ear pick” aka “ear spoon.” (This noun is formed from 耳 – mimi, “ear” – and the verb 掻く – kaku, “to scratch,” in conjunctive form.) Next we have the directional particle in a somewhat abstract mode, and finally the verb なる (naru), “to become,” in imperfective form so that it can take the sentence-final negative suffix (zu).


It’s a complex issue and all generalizations are false, as they say: whether a “big” pen can do the work of a “small” pen might depend on whether the “bigness” is the result of it being longer or having a thicker tip, for example, and there comes some upper limit beyond which a ridiculously large pen might be good for a novelty or a world record, but useless as a writing implement.

Example sentence:


(“Uuun, suteki na jaketto da kedo, yappari motto chiisai no ga ii kamo. Shakushi wa mimikaki ni narazu yo.”)

[“Hmmm, it’s a lovely jacket, but I really think a smaller one would be better. Big things can’t always stand in for small things, you know.”]

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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1 Response to Now I’m caught on the phrase “ear-spoon.”

  1. Pingback: Pets, utensils, and maybe even people! | landofnudotcom

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