For I am the ruler of all that I spoon


Literally: scoop – child – determine – measure

Alternately: Assessing everything based on the same criteria, regardless of whether this is appropriate or not. Inflexible; clinging to a single set of rules no matter what. Like trying to measure all sizes and distances by comparing them to the handle of a ladle.


In contrast to Sunday’s kotowaza, the 杓子 in this case apparently refers specifically to a “dipper” called a 柄杓 (hishaku), which takes the form of a sort of cup at the end of a stick. While an image search suggests that modern hishaku have straight, dowel-like handles, my sources say that historical ones had bent handles, making them almost useless as measuring-sticks.

This compound may also be expanded into a normal phrase as 杓子を定規にする (shakushi wo jougi ni suru), “to make a measuring-stick out of a ladle.” 四角四面 is considered a synonym.

This phrase apparently comes to us from the writing of Tokugawa-era scholar 三浦梅園 (Miura Baien).


Nobody panic, but these guys all have different handle lengths. (I think the bucket is just for scale.) (Source.)

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 For I am the ruler of all that I spoon

  1. Confanity says:

    Incidentally, the ladle types depicted in the illustration are, top to bottom: “long-handled,” shrine (for hand-washing), cooking, “regular,” plasterer’s, grave-visit (for ceremonially cleaning a Japanese-style gravestone), and tea-ceremony types. Note the different cup shapes, attachment methods, and handle angles.

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