Category Archives: Japanese

Wild horses could, in fact, drag it out of me

意馬心猿 i.ba.shin.en Literally: mind – horse – heart – monkey Alternately: This Buddhist phrase expresses how it is difficult to control oneself and detach from the illusory material world because worldly desires, false beliefs, and mental pollution such as hatred … Continue reading

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Hasty digging in the Mines of Morai

慌てる乞食は貰いが少ない (Awateru kojiki wa morai ga sukunai; “A beggar in a hurry receives little alms”) Definition: Haste makes waste; slow and steady wins the race. Rushing about or fighting to get in the door first, especially in pursuit of profit, … Continue reading

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Spear-spine spirit

首尾一貫 shu.bi.i-.kkan Literally: neck / head – tail – one – pierce Alternately: Seeing something through from beginning to end without any change in attitude. Consistency in principles, execution of a project, etc. Although the idea might seem negative to … Continue reading

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All eyes upon you, Masao-kun

弱り目に祟り目(Yowarime ni tatarime; “In a time of weakness, a curse”) Definition: To be beset by compounded troubles when things were already bad. To be kicked when you’re down. Having salt rubbed on your wounds. Things were already worrisome, then they … Continue reading

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Balanced on the head of a hinpin

文質彬彬 bun.shitsu.hin.pin Literally: style – substance – refined – refined Alternately: (A person in whom) external beauty and internal substance are in balance and harmony. Someone unbalanced in favor of their “interior” is crude, plain, unrefined. Someone unbalanced in favor … Continue reading

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From the ashes a fire shall be woken?

A light from the shadows shall spring! 焼け木杭に火がつく (Yake-bokkui ni hi ga tsuku; “Fire catches on a burned stick”) Definition: A former relationship that was cut off is easy to reestablish. On meeting an old friend or lover, you often … Continue reading

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A leap of dumbth

軽挙妄動 kei.kyo.mou.dou Literally: light (as opposed to “serious”) – action – delusion – motion Alternately: Rash, unthinking action. Doing this and that on impulse, without planning or consideration. Indiscriminate wild flailing. Notes: Despite their relatively similar meanings, replacing 妄 with … Continue reading

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Soldiers are for war, not for peaceful protests

(Another saying that features 焉. Next week we’ll have something different, I promise.) 鶏を割くに焉んぞ牛刀を用いん (Niwatori wo saku ni izukunzo gyuutou wo mochiin; “Why use a cow-cleaver to cut up a chicken?”) Definition: There’s no need to use powerful tools, or … Continue reading

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Chai knees characters

(Why yes, I am using this because I was looking into 焉 for the previous kotowaza post. Funny how that works.) 烏焉魯魚 u.en.ro.gyo Literally: bird – how / why – foolish – fish Alternately: The meanings of the original characters … Continue reading

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Ambition is for the birds

燕雀安くんぞ鴻鵠の志を知らんや (Enjaku izukunzo koukoku no kokorozashi wo shiran ya; “How could the swallow or sparrow understand the goose or swan?”) Definition: People of lowly character or small ability don’t, and can’t, understand the thought processes and ambitions of those with … Continue reading

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