Speechlessness of the White Witch
(Ni no ku ga tsugenai; “A second word can’t follow”)
Being dumbfounded. In a state of such complete shock or surprise that you can’t get words out even if you feel like you should probably say something.
We begin with number 二 (ni), “two,” connected by associative particle の (no) to noun 句 (ku), “phrase” or “section of text.” In this case, the combination 二の句 is a set phrase meaning “another word,” “the next word,” or “answer.” This noun phrase is marked as our grammatical subject by the particle が (ga). Finally, the verb in this short but complete sentence is 継ぐ (tsugu), “to follow after,” in negative potential form.
Replacing the verb with 告げる (tsugeru) – the negative form of which becomes homophone tsugenai – is an error. However, the negative form 継げない may be replaced with an older-fashioned-feeling 継げぬ. (This doesn’t mean that the saying uses classical grammar, though! In that case we’d be using the imperfective form and getting 継がぬ.)
This phrase is thought to originate in a serial novel from the early 1900s called 『或る女』 (Aru onna), A Certain Woman, perhaps in relation to the difficulty of properly chanting the second verse of a triad in a certain style of poetry recital.
(“Kouganmuchi ni mo genjitsu ni soguwanai hatsugen wo nando mo suru seijiya ni monomoushitakatta ga, ni no ku ga tsugenai hodo akke ni torarete shimaimashita.”)
[“I wanted to object to the the politician who time and time again, shamelessly said things that didn’t line up with reality, but I was so taken aback that I couldn’t get the words out.”]