Magic Monday – Red Light

Dazayn Lock (Slow; Hold Person)

This complicated spell exerts the caster’s will through the Shadow to place a target into a dreamlike state; their minds are trapped as their bodies become sluggish or even immobile.

This spell has a base cost of two strain plus one for each round it is maintained, and requires a challenge roll against the target’s Psychic save. Each degree of success allows the caster to remove one of the target’s actions each round… but the degree of success or failure can be shifted by one step through extra effort, adding one to the per-round cost in strain. At the cost of reducing the caster’s challenge dice size by a step, the spell can be expanded to multiple targets, although the initial cost (and any strain spent on extra effort) are increased by one per additional target.

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Like taking candy

Not from a baby, you monster

(Ocha no ko saisai; “Alright; tea candy!”)


Something super simple and easy; just a little thing. Words of encouragement. Something as effortless as picking up and eating a bit of some snack-food.


When the noun 茶 (cha), “tea” is joined with 子 (ko), “child” with the associative particle の (no), the result doesn’t mean “tea child” – instead it refers to 茶菓子 (chagashi), various kinds of sweets traditionally served together with (green) tea. The お (o) is just your normal honorific suffix attached to make the phrase feel “softer” and more suited to polite company. Appended to this noun phrase we have さいさい (saisai), meaningless sound-words attached to the phrase for rhythmic purposes or as a sort of encouraging noise. It’s supposedly borrowed from a folk-song that goes のんこさいさい (nonko sai sai), applied to this context due to the shared ko.


Naturally, leaving out the add-on and simply saying お茶の子 is perfectly acceptable. Emphasizing the phrase by adding 河童の屁 (kappa no he), “a kappa’s fart,” is also an option. (The latter phrase also refers to something trivial or, by extension, trivially easy.)

While the commonly-accepted explanation for this phrase’s origin is “as easy as eating a piece of candy,” an alternate explanation posits that in certain dialects, 茶の子 refers to 茶粥 (chagayu), rice gruel flavored with tea, eaten at times to start the day before the formal breakfast proper. From this, it’s argued that the phrase refers to something so simple it can be completed before breakfast. I suspect that this is a folk etymology rather than a real one, though.

Example sentence:


(“Mainichi nijikan ijou renshuu suru koto ni shiterun da. Yappa ken-reberu no konkuuru de yuushou suru nante ocha no ko saisai to wa ikanai kara.”)

[“I’m trying to practice at least two hours every day. Taking first place at the prefecture-level competition isn’t going to be so easy as all that!”]

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A danger of focusing solely on PR


Literally: exist – name – no – fruit / substance / truth

Alternately: Something’s substance doesn’t match its reputation. Well-known but unable to deliver. For example, when you have laws on the books designed to protect people from abusive corporations and systemic inequality, but your attorney general is too bigoted to enforce them – this phrase is often used in reference to unenforced laws and extant but inactive organizations.

Notes: Apparently some people write yuumei as homophone and near-synonym 勇名, but this is considered an error.

This compound comes to us from the Guoyu (國語, in Japanese Kokugo), a Chinese 4th-century BCE collection of speeches. As such, it’s also sometimes given a Japanese reading as 名有りて実無し (na arite jitsu nashi).


Image from a Korean news agency – so yeah, you can use this to throw shade at people too.

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Don’t try to be a profit prophet

(Toranu tanuki no kawa zan’you; “Calculating the pelt of an uncaught tanuki”)


Making over-optimistic calculations. Building unreliable assumptions into your plans for the future. Making a budget that includes estimated profit from the sale of the fur of a tanuki you haven’t actually caught yet. Counting your chickens before they hatch.


This is a noun phrase in which all the other parts modify the final noun, 算用 (san’you), “calculation.” This is modified by attaching the noun 皮 (kawa), “animal skin.” The origin of the skin is specified by using the associative particle の (no) to connect it to 狸 (tanuki), the Japanese “raccoon dog.” Finally, at the start, we have a verb that specifies the state of the tanuki whose pelt is being calculated: 捕る (toru), “capture,” in imperfective form with the negative suffix ず (zu) in prenominal form.


The initial verb can also be written as 取らぬ, 獲らぬ, or phonetically as とらぬ, without any change in meaning or pronunciation. However, writing kawa as 革 – despite it being to a degree semantically and phonetically interchangeable with 皮 – is considered an error. The phrase may be invoked in abbreviated form as 皮算用.

Tanuki fur was apparently used in both winter clothing and writing-brushes, and a pelt could be sold for a high price. However, Japanese folklore ascribes to the species a variety of magical powers such as shapeshifting, so trying to catch one may be thought of as a somewhat daunting task.

One of my sources claims that this is the と entry of one of the iroha karuta sets. If so, though, it seems to be a nonstandard set.

Example sentence:


(“Bonasu wo te ni ireru mae ni nani wo kaitai ka nante hanashi wa toranu tanuki no kawa-zan’you ni suginai to omou kedo….”)

[“I’d say that all that talk about what you’re going to buy, before the bonus money is actually in your hands, is nothing more than counting your chickens before they hatch.”]

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What distant deeps or skies

Don’t you ever look away.


Literally: tiger – look – watch intently – watch intently

Alternately: Vigilantly awaiting an opportunity. Watching intently for an opening. Like a tiger, lying still and staring down its intended prey as it waits for the chance to spring.

Notes: As always, the repeated character can be written with the doubling mark, as 眈々, without any change in meaning or pronunciation. Using the homophones 淡淡 or even the very similar-looking 耽耽 (note that the radical on the left in this case is “ear” rather than “eye”) is, however, an error.

This compound comes from a longer passage in the I Ching.


If I blink, it might escape.

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A potty mouth is a force multiplier

(Yamai wa kuchi yori iri wazawai wa kuchi yori izu;
“Disease enters from the mouth and disaster exits from the mouth”)


Disease enters the body through your mouth when you eat and drink; calamity and misfortune arise from the words that come out of your mouth. A warning to be careful with one’s words.


This is another saying composed of two parallel phrases; in this case verb phrases. In the first we have the noun 病 (yamai), “sickness,” marked as the topic of discussion by the particle は (wa). This is followed by the noun 口 (kuchi), “mouth,” marked as the origin of some motion by the particle より (yori), “from.” The motion in this case is 入る (iru), “to enter,” in conjunctive form. (Note that, just as in last week’s saying, this is an archaic form of the verb.)

The second half has in place of sickness 禍 (wazawai), “calamity,” and the repetition of は creates an explicit contrast between the two halves of the saying, beyond the effect of the parallel structure. 口より is as before, but in this case the verb is 出ず (izu), an archaic form of the verb now mostly seen as 出る (deru), “to go out,” although izu is more commonly found as 出づ. Izu appears here in sentence-final form.


Obviously this saying displays an incomplete understanding of disease. But given the antiquity of its origins and focus on the need for cautious speech, I’m sure that can be forgiven. The kotowaza apparently comes to us from third-century Chinese poet Fu Xuan (傅玄) via the Man’yoshu.

This saying may be invoked in abbreviated form as 禍は口から. It can also be thought of as a more egalitarian variation on the same theme as 綸言汗の如し. Closer to home, there are a number of other phrases associating catastrophe with (thoughtless words that come out of) one’s mouth, such as 口は禍の門 (kuchi wa wazawai no kado, “The mouth is disaster’s gateway”).

Example sentence:


(“Yamai wa kuchi yori iri wazawai wa kuchi yori izu to iu no de, mainichi jankufuudo wo kutte, tsune ni kimagure ni tsuiito wo hanatteiru aitsu wa, kitto itsumo ironnna wazawai wo maneiteru ni chigai nai.”)

[“They say that disease comes in through the mouth and disaster comes out of it, so that guy eating junk food every day and tweeting on a whim is doubtless inviting all kinds of disasters.”]

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I grind my bones to make my bread


Literally: powder – bone – smash – body

Alternately: To work as hard as you can. To give your all. In English we may work our fingers to the bone, but in Japanese you work until your bones themselves have been crushed to dust. Figuratively, of course.

Notes: This expression apparently comes from a 9th-century CE Chinese novel centering on a courtesan and her lover, Huo Xiaoyu zhuan (霍小玉傳).

The characters can be rearranged to a degree – 粉身砕骨, 砕骨粉身, and 砕身粉骨 are rare but equally valid variations.


Perhaps it’s about risking life and limb in battle.


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