Much less dramatic than “Takekurabe”

(Higuchi Ichiyou)

団栗の背比べ
(Donguri no seikurabe; “A height-measuring contest between acorns”)

Definition:

A group where none of the members particularly stand out from the rest. A collection of average types. Alternately, a pointless competition between people of no special ability; a pissing contest. Like comparing acorns, which are all about equally small.

Breakdown:

This noun phrase begins with the noun 団栗 (donguri), “acorn.” This is followed by 背 (various pronunciations; here sei), “back,” which joins together with 比ぶ (kurabu), “to compare,” acting as a noun in conjunctive form. The associative particle の (no) links the two halves of the whole.

Notes:

Kurabe can be written 競べ without any change in meaning or pronunciation.

This phrase apparently comes to us from Kaozheng scholar Qian Daxin (銭大昕), in a work called 恒言録 (Héng yán lù, Japanese pronunciation unclear but probably Kougenroku)

Example sentence:

「今年の予備選挙の候補者達は団栗の背比べで、ちょっと意気消沈してしまった」

(“Kotoshi no yobisenkyo no kouhosha-tachi wa donguri no seikurabe de, chotto ikishouchin shite shimatta.”)

[“The candidates in this year’s primary race are all just average; it’s kind of a let-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.
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