No rest for the nebbish

The wicked all too often have a surfeit of leisure

貧乏暇なし
(Binbou hima nashi;
“Poor, no rest”)

Definition:

The poor have no free time; when you’re poor, you have to work constantly just to meet your needs and stay alive. When you’re paid in starvation wages, you can never afford to stop working.

Breakdown:

This compact phrase begins with the compound noun 貧乏 (binbou), “poor,” “poverty,” with any particles elided and followed immediately by the noun 暇 (hima), “free time,” “leisure.” This in turn is modified by the adjective なし (nashi), “not,” in conclusive form.

Notes:

This is the ひ ((h)i) entry of the Edo iroha karuta set. It comes to us from our acquaintance, the linked-verse collection 『世話尽』 (Sewa tsukushi).

Adding “person” to “poor” (貧乏  = binbounin) is considered an error. Some versions may extend the phrase by specifying a job: 魚売り (sakana uri, “selling fish”), 砂利かつぎ (jari katsugi, “carrying gravel”), etc. Interestingly, while presumably nashi could be written with kanji as 無し, none of my sources present it this way.

Example sentence:

貧乏暇なしで本職に加えて夜にもバイトをしている人がお金持ちの家族に生まれた人に「一生懸命働いたら大きく儲けられるよ」と言われたら怒って反発してもおかしくはないだろう。

(Binbou hima nashi de honshoku ni kuwaete yoru ni mo baito wo shiteiru hito ga okanemochi no kazoku ni umareta hito ni “isshoukenmei hataraitara ookiku moukerareru yo” to iwaretara okotte hanpatsu shite mo okashiku wa nai darou.)

[If someone so unrelentingly poor that they need to take a night shift in addition to their day job is told, by someone born into a wealthy family, that “you can make good money if you just work as hard as you can,” it wouldn’t be weird for them to get mad and push back.]

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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