Even this old man comes rolling home

枯れ木も山の賑わい
(Kareki mo yama no nigiwai; “Even a dead tree adds life to a mountain”)

Definition:

Even something boring or drab is better than nothing at all. Even dead, withered trees give more “life” to a mountainside than if it were bare. This is most commonly used as a self-deprecating expression by someone relatively old joining a group of younger, more energetic people for some activity.

Breakdown:

We begin with the verb 枯れる (kareru), “to wither,” “to die,” in prenominal form, attached to and modifying the noun 木 (ki), “tree.” This is followed by the particle も (mo), commonly “also” but in this case “even.” Next comes the noun 山 (yama), “mountain,” and finally the verb 賑わう (nigiwau), “to be bustling,” “to flourish.” It appears in conjunctive form, which allows it to act as a noun, and the particle の (no) shows that this noun is associated with or possessed by the mountain.

Notes:

Variations on this phrase may replace “withered” with “bent” (歪み, yugami), the mountain with a forest (森, mori), or the liveliness with decoration (飾り, kazari).

Example sentence:

「あのおじいさんがうちのサークルに入った時は、彼、枯れ木も山の賑わいなんて言ってたけど、びっくりするほど上手く歌えるね」

(“Ano ojiisan ga uchi no saakuru ni haitta toki ha, kare, kareki mo yama no nigiwai nante iiteta kedo, bikkuri suru hodo umaku utaeru ne.”)

[“When that old man joined our club he was saying stuff like ‘Even an old fart like me might brighten things up a bit,’ but it turns out he can sing surprisingly well.”]

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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