Same difference, amirite?

…or perhaps different similarities….


Literally: big – same – small – different

Alternately: Generally similar. The similarities between things outweigh their differences. Although the things being compared may differ in a number of details, the broad strokes are the same.

Confusingly, this yojijukugo can an also be used to emphasize that while two things may seem the same, focusing on the details will reveal the ways in which they’re different.

Notes: Writing instead of , despite their similar meanings and identical on-readings, is an error.

This compound is derived from a passage in the Zhuangzi, a Daoist text written in the 4th or early 3rd century BCE and the source of the famous story in which a man dreams that he is a butterfly (and then, upon waking, wonders whether he isn’t a butterfly now dreaming that he is a man).


For you literalists out there!

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 Same difference, amirite?

  1. Yang Ho says:

    It has been said that since the ambiguity of the terms (or sentences) and that numerous differences (i.e. similarities) may arise easily, Zhuangzi meant only that it s unjustified to differentiate at all. I take it that you are a linguist and study sinology?

    • Confanity says:

      Thank you for your perspective! I’m studying these phrases through the lens of (modern) Japanese usage, although clearly many of them originally come from Chinese literature!

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