(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 は (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 に 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 ず (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.
(“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.”]