A grand excuse
(Sao no saki ni suzu;
“A bell on the end of a pole”)
Something especially noisy; a huge racket; by extension, when someone talks far too much. A pole is long and thin and often kind of whippy – think of a fishing pole – so putting a bell on the end of one would produce noise magnified along the pole’s length with every tiny motion.
This simple phrase begins by using the associative particle の (no) to link the noun 先 (saki), “tip,” with the noun 竿 (sao), “rod,” “pole.” The particle に (ni) marks the resulting noun phrase as the location of an action. In this case, the action itself is left as mere implication, while its object is included: the noun 鈴 (suzu), a small, often-round bell.
This is the さ (sa) entry of the Kyoto iroha karuta set. A closely related noun phrase, with the に changed to an associative の (no), refers specifically to someone who talks way too much, or is all talk and no substance. A slightly more distant variant replaces the pole-end with a leaf of bamboo grass: 笹の葉 (sasa no ha).
(“Sao no saki no suzu tte iu no wa masa ni tonari no yatsu wo sasu kotoba da ne. Aitsu wa ichinichijuu denwa yara nani yara de ookii na koe de shaberi tsudzuketete tomaru koto ga nai nda.”)
[“The phrase ‘a bell always ringing’ is perfect for that guy next door. Whether he’s on the phone or what, he’s always talking and talking nonstop in a really loud voice.”]