And now you understand 90% of every samurai movie

武士は食わねど高楊枝
(Bushi wa kuwanedo takayouji;
“Even a warrior who hasn’t eaten uses a toothpick”)

Definition:

A destitute warrior who hasn’t eaten nonetheless acting like they have, in order to avoid revealing weakness to any potential enemies. By extension, putting on airs or a show of pride, or acting stoic in the face of hardship. Forced cheer.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 武士 (various pronunciations, in this case bushi), “warrior,” marked as the topic of discussion by the particle は (wa). The comment on this topic begins with the verb 食う (kuu), “to eat.” This verb appears in imperfective form and takes the negative suffix ず (zu). This suffix itself appears in perfective form as ね (ne), allowing it to take the concessive suffix ど (do), “even (if).” Without particles, this verb phrase is followed by the noun 楊枝 (youji), “skewer” or “toothpick.” Prefixing this noun with adjective-turned-noun 高 (taka), “high,” implies that the toothpick use is leisurely, giving an air of self-assurance or of having just enjoyed a satisfying meal.

MifuneYouji

You get a bonus if you’re Mifune Toshiro.

Notes:

This saying is the ふ entry in the Kyoto iroha karuta set, but is also attributed to the writings of Confucian sage Mencius (孟子, in Japanese Moushi).

Example sentence:

「あいつの精神はな、武士は食わねど高楊枝だから、たとえお前が弁当を分けてあげると言っても一口も食わんだろう」

(“Aitsu no seishin wa na, bushi wa kuwanedo takayouji dakara, tatoe omae ga bentou wo wakete ageru to itte mo hitokuchi mo kuwan darou.”)

[“That guy, he’s got this samurai spirit that doesn’t want to admit any problems, so for example even if you offer him part of your bento, he won’t have a single bite.”]

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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