Category Archives: Japanese

“Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth”

– FDR 再三再四 sai.san.sai.shi Literally: again – three – again – four Alternately: Repeatedly; over and over; time and time again. It seems that this phrase is often used while chewing someone out, to emphasize how many times they were … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A leaf on the wind; watch how it soars

一葉落ちて天下の秋を知る (Ichiyou ochite tenka no aki wo shiru; “A leaf falls, and one knows autumn”) Definition: Sensing something big coming on from a relatively minor hint. Understanding the future from the very first signs. Like realizing that fall is on … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In preparation for Thanksgiving

…a rule that Americans traditionally break shatter. 腹八分目に医者要らず (Hara hachibunme ni isha irazu; “At the belly’s eighth part, no need for doctors”) Definition: It’s better for your health to not eat until you’re stuffed, but rather to stop before your … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not quite cuckoo

But closer every day 鳩居鵲巣kyuu.kyo.jaku.sou Literally: dove – sit/be [in a place] – magpie – nest Alternately: Taking someone else’s achievements or social position for yourself. Undeservedly stealing someone else’s laurels or spotlight. Notes: This comes from our friend, the … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A skeleton in every closet

A monster under every bed 人を見たら泥棒と思え (Hito wo mitara dorobou to omoe; “When you see someone, think them a thief”) Definition: Don’t blindly trust strangers. A proverb advising the listener to protect themselves by doubting and confirming, rather than naively … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doing the wave

人海戦術 jin.kai.sen.jutsu Literally: person – ocean – war – technique Alternately: Human-wave tactics. Assaulting enemy lines with an unsupported mass infantry charge in the hopes of overwhelming them with sheer numbers. By extension, any strategy of throwing large numbers of … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All ties weird and wonderful

A red thread binds them all? 縁は異なもの味なもの (En wa i na mono aji na mono; “A relationship is a strange thing, a wondrous thing”) Definition: The ties that bind two people together are mysterious, inexplicable, and often pleasantly weird. This … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And the Wild Things gnashed their terrible teeth

And clenched their terrible arms? 切歯扼腕 se-.sshi.yaku.wan Literally: cut – tooth – dominate / obstruct – arm Alternately: Convulsive rage (or frustration, or other negative emotion). Grinding the teeth and clenching the arms against one’s body. Being so worked up … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some people just want things that don’t burn

沈香も焚かず屁もひらず (Jinkou mo takazu he mo hirazu; “Neither burning agarwood incense nor loosing a fart”) Definition: A person (or lifestyle) without any particular good or bad points; someone who causes no harm but is exceedingly mediocre. Someone with, metaphorically speaking, … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It didn’t work for stoicism

一子相伝 i-.sshi.sou.den Literally: one – child – mutual – transmit Alternately: A traditional system where the inner, secret, or ultimate teachings of an art, craft, school of thought, etc. are passed on to exactly one heir (usually from a father … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment