Tag Archives: classical Japanese grammar

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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Nothing but boss fights

(Pun) 人の振り見て我が振り直せ (Hito no furi mite waga furi naose; “Observe the behavior of others; correct your own”) Definition: An admonition to grow and improve by observing those around you. When you see good behavior, you should copy it; when you … Continue reading

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Long before Tezuka or Dazai

他山の石以て玉を攻むべし (Tazan no ishi motte tama wo osamu beshi; “One must polish one’s jewels with stones from other mountains.”) Definition: A command to take someone else’s mistakes as an opportunity to reflect on and improve your own ways. “One must … Continue reading

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If this post is too long, I can’t say I wasn’t warned

雉も鳴かずば撃たれまい (Kiji mo nakazuba utaremai; “Even the pheasant, if it doesn’t cry out, won’t be shot”) Definition: Said in response to times when someone caused problems for themselves by speaking when it would have been prudent not to. An admonition … Continue reading

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Potholes are another story

盲蛇に怖じず (Mekura hebi ni ojizu; “The blind do not fear snakes”) Definition: The ignorant have no way to judge the true danger of a situation, and so take risks that more knowledgeable people would avoid. “Fools rush in where angels … Continue reading

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Does it flip when you’re old?

少年老い易く学成り難し (Shounen oiyasuku gaku narigatashi; “For a youth to age is easy, and to become a scholar is hard”) Definition: People should study hard when they’re young, because time is precious and fleeting. When you’re young you feel like you … Continue reading

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And now you understand 90% of every samurai movie

武士は食わねど高楊枝 (Bushi wa kuwanedo takayouji; “Even a warrior who hasn’t eaten uses a toothpick”) Definition: A destitute warrior who hasn’t eaten nonetheless acting like they have, in order to avoid revealing weakness to any potential enemies. By extension, putting on … Continue reading

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Waft your way to a win?

身を捨ててこそ浮かぶ瀬もあれ (Mi wo sutete koso ukabu se mo are; “There are rivers that you cross by throwing away your body”) Definition: Sometimes facing danger head-on is the only way to escape it. There are times when you need to be … Continue reading

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Yinstring and Yangtwine

禍福は糾える縄の如し (Kafuku wa azanaeru nawa no gotoshi; “Good and ill fortune are entwined like (the strands of) a rope”) Definition: Good luck and bad luck are intimately and inextricably connected; you can’t have only one or the other. Every cloud … Continue reading

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Book learnin’ minus brain learnin’ ain’t learnin’

But a rabbit-hole is just as dangerous. 学びて思わざれば則ち罔し (Manabite omowazareba sunawachi kurashi; “Study without consideration is nothing.”) Definition: No matter how much you study, if you don’t also think about the content of what you’re learning, you can’t actually reach … Continue reading

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