Make sure to rationalize your hands more often in the winter

(to prevent chapping)

理屈と膏薬はどこへでも付く
(Rikutsu to kouyaku wa doko he demo tsuku;
“Rationalizing and ointment will stick anywhere.”)

Definition:

People can come up with rationalizations for almost anything. The ideal of reason is a rigorous search for the truth no matter what conclusion one may have expected or desired at the start, but unfortunately it’s far more common to see people coming up with plausible-sounding reasons to ignore evidence, carve out special exceptions, or otherwise turn the machinery of rational thought to self-serving ends. No matter what a person has done or wants to do, reason may be turned to provide justification rather than discover the actual best path forward.

This feels pretty topical in a time where, contrary to what you might expect, political polarization seems to lead to some people rejecting reality harder, rather than accepting it more gracefully, with higher levels of education.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 理屈 (rikutsu), “reason(ing),” joined by the particle と (to), a comprehensive “and,” to the noun 膏薬 (kouyaku), a term for oil-based topical medicine. All of the preceding becomes a single noun phrase marked by the particle は (wa) as the topic of discussion. The comment on this topic begins with question word どこ (doko), “where.” This is followed by the direction-marker particle へ (e), and then by two more particles, で (de) and も (mo). These latter two combine to form conjunction demo, in this case “even,” rendering the comment so far as “to wherever.” And what is it that reason and liniment do to wherever? They do the verb 付く (tsuku), “to attach.” The verb appears in sentence-final form, and in fact we have a complete sentence.

Notes:

In other contexts, the compound 膏薬 can also be pronounced with its native Japanese reading as aburagusuri, but for this saying only kouyaku is correct. Some people apparently write homophone 利 (“benefit”) in place of 理 (“logic,” “truth”), but this is an error.

Example sentence:

「確かに事情もあるのだろう。だとしても、ルールに反してはいけない。理屈と膏薬はどこへでも付くからな」

(“Tashika ni jijou mo aru no darou. Da to shite mo, ruuru ni han shite wa ikenai. Rikutsu to kouyaku wa doko he demo tsuku kara na.”)

[“I’m sure there are extenuating circumstances. That said, we can’t just break the rules. People can rationalize anything, after all.”]

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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