In which 0 = 7

And (n ≥ 1) = 48

無くて七癖
(Nakute nanakuse; “None, seven quirks”)

Definition:

Even someone who appears completely normal has their quirks, flaws, or questionable habits. Nobody is truly ordinary or above criticism. Everybody has their own faults.

Breakdown:

This compact idiom depends on elision. It begins with the adjective 無い (nai), “not,” in conjunctive form, followed by the number-noun 七癖 (nana-kuse), “seven habits.” (The implication is that the “habits” would be considered odd or bad, although examples such as verbal tics also fall into this category.)

Grammatically, this phrase simply doesn’t work as it stands; it should be read not literally but as shorthand for something along the lines of “(Even if it appears that somebody has) none, (they actually have) seven (hidden) quirks.”

Notes:

It’s said that the reason “seven” was chosen was simple alliteration: the nas in nana match up with the na in nai. Accordingly, while reading 七 as shichi is not strictly an error, it should probably be avoided.

Some versions of this expressions follow with あって四十八癖 (atte shijuuhakkuse), e.g. “Someone who has visible quirks then will have forty-eight of them.” – This number chosen due to 48 traditionally indicating a comprehensive set, as in the 48 basic techniques of sumo.

Example sentence:

無くて七癖で、全くもって一般人だと思った兄でも、クシャミのあと、グアーとか変な声を出す癖があるのに最近気が付いたんだ」

(Nakute nanakuse de, mattaku motte ippanjin da to omotta ani de mo, kushami no ato, ‘Guaa’ to ka hen na koe wo dasu kuse ga aru no ni saikin ki ga tsuita nda.”)

[“It’s said that everybody has their quirks – recently I noticed that even my older brother, who I’d thought was perfectly ordinary, has this habit of making weird noises like ‘Guh’ after sneezing.”]

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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