Eliza, Eliza

There’s a hole in the bag now; an exceptional hole!


Literally: bag – inside – [possessive particle] – awl / auger / drill

Alternately: A person of exceptional ability will show through even if surrounded by large numbers of ordinary people. “The cream rises to the top.” An awl, or similar piercing tool, hidden inside a bag will poke out and show itself.

Notes: There are a number of four-character compounds that use 之 in its archaic function as the associative particle, and to this point I’ve avoided using them because it feels like cheating to me somehow. In this case I relented because of the remaining compounds that start with no, this was the only one referenced in all my usual sources, so I’m assuming that it’s the most commonly-used and accessible.

Modern Japanese orthography may see this written at times with の instead of 之, though. Other variants replace 錐 with 穎 (ei), “awn” or “glume” (both apparently spiky strictures on plants) or even with 類 (tagui), “type,” “kind [of thing],” although why I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem to have any associations with specifically sharp or poky things, and may simply be a common “misspelling” of the obscure 穎.

Compare and contrast 能ある鷹は爪を隠す.

This compound comes to us from regular contributor Records of the Grand Historian (Japanese 『史記』 = Shiki).


How about a bag designed to hold the auger, though?

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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