Keep your mouth open and face the music
(Kusai mono ni futa wo suru;
“To put a lid on something stinky”)
Stopgap measures to hide misdeeds, scandal, or other inconvenient realities. The tactic is temporary, but that doesn’t stop some, especially the rich and powerful, from using it repeatedly to postpone a reckoning.
We begin with the adjective 臭い (kusai), “stinky,” which precedes and modifies the noun 物 (mono), “thing,” which is marked as the target of an action by the directional particle に (ni), in the context of the final word, which is the verb する (suru), “to do,” in conclusive form. The direct-object marker particle を (wo) applies this verb to the noun 蓋 (futa), “lid,” which becomes the thing being “done” to the stinky thing.
This is the く (ku) entry of the Edo iroha karuta set. It is attributed (by exactly one of my sources) to a 1749 joururi play titled 『双蝶蝶曲輪日記』 (Futatsu chouchou kuruwa nikki).
Sometimes the verb is elided, and the phrase is shortened to 臭い物に蓋. Occasionally mono may be written in kana as もの, although this seems uncommon.
(“Hannin wa hisshi ni kusai mono ni futa wo suru you na shudan wo tsugitsugi to totta kedo, kekkyoku keisatsu ni taiho sareta.”)
[“The criminal desperately tried one move after another to throw them off the scent, but eventually the police caught and arrested him.”]