(Bushi wa kuwanedo takayouji;
“Even a warrior who hasn’t eaten uses a toothpick”)
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.
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.
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).
(“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.”]