Thus was slapstick monetized

転んでもただでは起きない
(Koronde mo tada de wa okinai;
“Even falling down, they won’t get up as they were”)

Definition:

Cunning and greedy; angling to get some sort of profit even from a mistake or setback; like someone who slips and falls, then looks for something to pick up while they’re on the ground. Although it can have admiring overtones, it tends to be used as a cutting remark about someone’s greed or about their tendency to go with whatever seems the most advantageous.

Note that saying is not used of someone who profits through hard work or recognized talent; the nuance is of someone managing to enrich themselves by finding some trick, loophole, or angle.

Breakdown:

We begin with the verb 転ぶ (korobu), “to fall down,” in conjunctive form and followed by the particle も (mo). The latter often means “also,” or by extension “even,” but here the ~ても form implies emphasis: falling down is an extreme example of the kind of misfortune that the person might try to extract benefit from. This is followed by adjectival noun ただ (tada), often translated as “free” but in this case meaning something more like “as is.” This is followed by particle で (de) denoting a state, and then particle は (wa) indicating an implicit contrast: the state of the person who fell is not “as it was” by the time they 起きる (okiru), “to get up,” a verb here found in negative sentence-final form.

Notes:

This one doesn’t seem to have a standard version. You can do without the で in では, although that may be less common nowadays. Some variants use the older negative suffix ぬ (nu) instead of ない.

Example sentence:

「あの上田さん?うーん、頑張り屋さんというか転んでもただでは起きない人というか、どんな目に遭っても必ず最後は利益を出してるから、ちょっと気になる人だ」

(“Ano Ueda-san? Uun, ganbariya san to iu ka koronde mo tada de wa okinai hito to iu ka, donna me ni atte mo kanarazu saigo wa rieki wo dashiteru kara, chotto ki ni naru hito da.”)

[“Oh, that Ueda-san? Umm, well, I don’t know whether it’s because they work hard or whether they just find a way to benefit even from failure. But no matter what happens they always end up turning a profit, and it’s caught my attention.”]

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.
This entry was posted in Japanese, Kotowaza and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s