Forget little spoon; do you want to be the lid?

割れ鍋に綴じ蓋
(Warenabe ni tojibuta; “A mended lid on a cracked pot”)

Definition:

Everybody has their match; no matter how out-of-place a person may feel, there is someone out there who would make a good spouse, friend, or other sort of partner for them. Even a cracked pot has a similarly-broken lid that goes well with it.

Note that despite the literal image, this is less about people being “broken” than about two people being on the same wavelength, or well-matched with each other. Keep in mind,though, that the image of broken things makes this a humble phrase, to be used in describing one’s own situation. Using it to describe someone else is inappropriate and rude.

Alternatively, this phrase can mean that people who are well-matched will produce the best results – in contrast to the “opposites attract” conventional wisdom recently touted in the West.

Breakdown:

We begin with the verb 割れる (wareru), “to break,” “to crack,” in prenominal form, preceding and modifying the noun 鍋 (nabe), “pot.” (Traditionally, this is the clay vessel that Westerners mostly associate with “hotpot”-type cooking.) This is followed by the verb 綴じる (tojiru), “to bind,” similarly in prenominal form and modifying the noun 蓋 (futa), “cover,” “lid.” Directional particle に (ni), in the center, matches the lid “to” the pot.

Notes:

Some versions of this saying replace 割れ鍋 with 破れ鍋, or 破鍋, without any change in meaning or pronunciation. However, allowing your computer’s kanji autofill to replace 綴じ with homophone 閉じ (“closed”) is (obviously) an error.

Other variants make the lid chipped (欠け蓋, kakebuta), replace the clay pot with a metal one (釜, kama) – often accompanied by changing the verbs as well – or even drop the brokenness and simply compare a married couple to a pot and lid. Last week’s 蓼食う虫も好き好き is considered synonymous, although that is more about personal taste and less about life partners specifically.

This is the わ entry of the Edo iroha karuta set.

Example sentence:

「あんまり自信ないけど、割れ鍋に綴じ蓋があると信じて、出会い系サイトでプロフィールを作ってみることにした」

(“Ammari jishin nai kedo, warenabe ni mo tojibuta ga aru to shinjite, deai-kei saito de purofiiru wo tsukutte miru koto ni shita.”)

[“I don’t really have a lot of self-confidence, but I decided to trust that even a cracked pot has its lid, and try making a profile on a dating site.”]

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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