Like taking candy from a baby…

…by beating it in a game of chess

暖簾に腕押し
(Noren ni ude-oshi; “arm-wrestling a curtain”)

Definition:

A deed with no resistance, therefore requiring no real effort, and therefore giving no thrill or satisfaction for the accomplishment. A waste of effort. Alternately, being completely ineffective. Like arm-wrestling one of the hanging curtains that adorn many Japanese shop-fronts (especially restaurants) – they need to be pushed aside to enter, but are typically made of light cloth and lack both the power and will to respond meaningfully.

Breakdown:

This is two nouns connected by the directional particle (ni). The first noun – the one the implicit action is being directed into – is 暖簾 (noren), a traditional hanging curtain that hangs just low enough that most people can’t simply walk under it. The second noun is 腕押し (udeoshi), literally “arm-pushing.”

Notes:

In contemporary Japanese, the term udeoshi seems to refer to a shove used in sumo wrestling. My sources note that there is some debate over whether this kotowaza refers to a simple push or to arm-wrestling, but the latter interpretation seems overall to be favored even if the word udeoshi itself is more ambiguous. Apparently the arm-wrestling reading is supported by usage in texts such as the 義経記 (“The Chronicles of Yoshitsune”) and the first ever European dictionary of Japanese, the 1603 日葡辞書 (Nippo Jisho).

Example sentence:

「怒ってる二歳児を説得するのなんて、暖簾に腕押しだ。落ち着くのを待つしかないな」

(“Okotteru nisaiji wo settoku suru no nante, noren ni udeoshi da. Ochitsuku no wo matsu shika nai na.”)

[“There’s no point to trying to convince an angry two-year-old. All you can do is wait for them to calm down.”]

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.
This entry was posted in Japanese, Kotowaza and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s