Cheap is dear, but deer don’t cheep

For those counting, this is the 200th kotowaza! To celebrate, we’re… doing nothing special!

(Yasumonogai no zeniushinai; “Losing money by buying cheap”)


Especially cheap things tend to be poorly made; they fail to perform their functions properly, or wear out, or break down, and you end up losing money because they soon need to be replaced. The saying ignores factors that encourage price inflation like brand name recognition, monopolies, fads, and so on, but it still generally holds true that if you’re going to spend money on something, and you have room in your budget, it can be worthwhile to pay a little extra for quality and durability.


We “begin” three characters in with the verb 買う (kau), “to buy,” in conjunctive form, functioning as a noun. It’s prefixed by the noun 物 (mono), “thing,” causing the first consonant of 買い to become voiced, and this compound noun is further modified by prefixing the adjective 安い (yasui), “easy” or “cheap,” with the ending removed so that it too functions as a noun. Associative particle の (no) associates the result with another compound noun formed from the verb 失う (ushinau), “to lose,” also nominalized with the conjunctive form, and the noun 銭 (zeni), “money.”


銭 originally referred to a unit of mass, and later became a unit of currency equal to a hundredth of a yen, but like the more common 金 can also be a generic term for “money.”

This is the や entry of the Edo iroha karuta set.

Example sentence:

「もう、削っても削ってもこの鉛筆の芯はすぐ折れちゃうから使えない!十円だけだったけど、結局十円無駄にしちゃったぁ」 「だから、母さんいつも安物買いの銭失いに気をつけなさいって言ってるでしょ」

(“Mou, kezutte mo kezutte mo kono enpitsu no shin wa sugu orechau kara tsukaenai! Juuen dake datta kedo, kekkyoku juuen muda ni shichattaa.” “Dakara, kaasan itsumo yasumonogai no zeniushinai ni ki wo tsukenasai tte itteru desho.”)

[“Ugh, no matter how much I sharpen this pencil, the lead breaks right away. Useless! It was only ten yen, but it was ten yen wasted.” “And that’s why I’m always telling you to not waste money buying cheap.”]

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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