Like falling off a bike, but very different

(Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi; “Birthing is easier than planning”)


The deed is often less terrible than anticipation-nerves would have it. Before starting a course of action people tend to worry about this and that, but find the actual experience smoother than they’d feared, or after finishing, find that the task was less fearsome than expected. Just Doing a thing is less harrowing than merely thinking about it. Disclaimer: May not always be applicable to actual childbirth.


We begin at the end with the adjective 易し, “easy,” in sentence-final form. Note that in modern orthography this would be pronounced yasashii, but that here it’s yasushi. The thing that is easy is marked by the particle が (ga), and that thing is 産む (umu), “give birth.” (Note that in modern Japanese the verb would be changed into a noun by adding の or こと, but here the same function is fulfilled by the attributive form of the verb.) The ease of giving birth is より (yori), “more than,” that of something else. And the something else is a noun-turned-verb-turned-noun: the add-on verb ずる appears here in attributive form, attached to the noun 案 (an), “plan.”


It’s acceptable to replace 易し with the more modern 易い (yasui) or to write 産む as homophone 生む without any change in meaning, but replacing the character 易 with 安 is considered an error. There are a number of synonymous phrases that use 案じる instead of 案ずる (the two are largely interchangeable), but all of them contain other changes beyond simply swapping out the verb-forming element.

Despite my “disclaimer,” it’s worth pointing out that one of my sources goes out of its way to mention that the saying actually can apply in metaphorical cases and not just in real childbirth, implying that there was at some point a widespread impression among Japanese people of looking back after giving birth and going, “Well, that went a lot more smoothly than I’d feared; I don’t know what we were all so worried about!” Go figure.

Example sentence:

案ずるより産むが易しよ、好きな人にデートしようって言ってみな」 「けど先輩、そんなのは、ナンパに過ぎないじゃないですか?」

(Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi yo, suki na hito ni deeto shiyou tte itte mi na.” “Kedo senpai, sonna no wa, nanpa ni suginai ja nai desu ka?”)

[“It’s easier done than said, just go up to whoever you like and be all, ‘Let’s go on a date!’” “But isn’t that just trying to pick up random women on the street?”]

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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