Every body has some body

So rock your body right

身は身で通る裸ん坊
(Mi wa mi de tooru hadakanbou;
“The body, as the body, passes through (life) naked””)

Definition:

Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, quirks and skills, station in life, and so on – but we all go on living our lives just the same. Everybody is born naked (and without any possessions) and cremated naked, and in between you’ve got a body that will get you through somehow or other.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 身 (mi), “body,” or by metaphorical extension one’s position in society, marked as the topic of discussion with the particle は (wa). The comment on this topic begins with another 身, this time marked by the particle で (de) as the means by which an action is performed. The action in question is the verb 通る (tooru), “to pass through,” in prenominal form and preceding a compound noun comprising the nouns 裸 (hadaka), “nakedness,” and 坊 (bou). Most directly this term means “priest” or “boy,” but by extension it can mean “a person characterized by [whatever precedes the 坊].” An extra ん (n) sound is added in between for euphony. We may imagine a copula here, but it has been elided.

Notes:

This is the み (mi) entry of the Kyoto iroha karuta set. A variant expands the final 坊 to 坊 (bouzu) without significant change in meaning; it is also possible to abbreviate the phrase to just 見は身で通る.

I’m not sure what to make of this saying. On the one hand, its fatalism seems to fall on the side of optimism: “no matter your troubles, you’ll muddle through somehow or other.” On the other hand, it is fatalism and from my modern perspective it feels like the sort of thing someone with a smooth and easy life would coopt to justify ignoring the suffering of those less fortunate.

When I first spotted this kotowaza I managed to read 通る as 踊る (odoru, “to dance”). This would have been very cute but it is, alas, an error.

Example sentence:

「若い時は身は身で通る裸坊主、ただ生き続けられるだけで嬉しかった。がしかし、年を取ると次第に自分の身の振り方について考えるようになってきた」

(“Wakai toki wa mi wa mi de tooru hadakanbouzu, tada ikitsudzukerareru dake de ureshikatta. Ga shikashi, toshi wo toru to shidai ni jibun no mi no furikata ni tsuite kangaeru you ni natte kita”)

[“When I was young I was glad that I was simply able to go on living in the body I’d been born with. But as I got older, I increasingly thought about the course I wanted to steer through my life.”]

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 Every body has some body

  1. Pingback: The Scrooge of the Orchard | landofnudotcom

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