Pets, utensils, and maybe even people!

猫も杓子も
(Neko mo shakushi mo;
“Even cats and serving-spoons”)

Definition:

Everyone and everything. “All that and the kitchen sink.” “Everyone and their brother.” Everything at hand, thrown together in a jumble without distinction. I get the impression that this phrase is primarily used to refer to large groups of people who share in a behavior or quality.

Breakdown:

This simple phrase consists of a pair of nouns, each followed by the emphatic particle も (mo). The first noun is 猫 (neko), “cat,” and the second is 杓子 (shakushi), a traditional serving spoon.

Notes:

杓子 is often translated as “ladle” (including by me, in a previous post) but this is a bit misleading. The original bamboo spoon appears to be more flat and paddle-like, although there’s also a design that amounts to a tiny cylindrical cup at the end of a long stick, and modern usage has expanded to include Western-style ladles as well.

The origins of this phrase are unclear. Theories have been advanced suggesting that the terms are corruptions of phonetically similar words, that both cats and serving-spoons are common and accessible in many households, that shakushi are shaped similarly to cats’ paws, or that it comes from a collection of anecdotes about the famous Zen monk Ikkyū, appropriately titled 『一休咄』 (Ikkyuu-banashi, “Tales of Ikkyū”).

Example sentence:

「ピクニックに友達を数人だけ誘ったはずなのに、いつの間にか猫も杓子も集まった賑やかなパーティーになってしまった

(“Pikunikku ni tomodachi wo suunin dake sasotta hazu na no ni, itsu no ma ni ka neko mo shakushi mo atsumatta nigiyaka na paatii ni natte shimatta.”)

[“I’m pretty sure I only invited a handful of friends to the picnic, but at some point absolutely everyone showed up and it turned into a noisy party.”]

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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1 Response to Pets, utensils, and maybe even people!

  1. Pingback: For I am the ruler of all that I spoon | landofnudotcom

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