Tag Archives: Records of the Grand Historian

All in one basket, no less

累卵の危うき(Ruiran no ayauki;“The peril of a pile of eggs”) Definition: An especially unstable and dangerous situation. Potential downfall and ruin. Breakdown: We begin with the compound noun 累卵 (ruiran), literally a “pile of eggs.” This is joined by the associative … Continue reading

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The best lover is one who breaks your spine

A book lover breaking your book’s spine, I mean. 葦編三絶i.hen.san.zetsu Literally: reed – braid – three – sever Alternately: Reading the same book over and over again. Close, careful, and frequent reading of a text. Notes: Think of a text … Continue reading

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The great insulator

Second only to sudden bereavement – Joan Aiken 一攫千金i-.kkaku.sen.kin Literally: one – take – thousand – gold Alternately: Making a large profit at one stroke without much effort. Note that the instantaneous and easy nature of the wealth in question … Continue reading

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Keep your debrief brief

敗軍の将は兵を語らず (Haigun no shou wa hei wo katarazu; “The defeated commander speaks not of war.”) Definition: Someone who has failed at something has no authority to speak on the topic; a defeated general should not give their opinions on warfare. … 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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Hot air rises

意気揚揚i.ki.you.you Literally: mind/heart – spirit – raise – raise Alternately: In high spirits; triumphant, elated… by extension, boastful; proud unto arrogance; full of oneself. Often used with the ironic or critical nuance that someone’s inflated self-esteem is not actually in … Continue reading

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Just avoid immovable objects

…and you’ll be fine. Right? 断じて行えば鬼神も之を避く (Danjite okonaeba kishin mo kore wo saku; “If you do things decisively, even demon-gods will get out of the way”) Definition: If you take decisive action backed by strong determination, there is little that … Continue reading

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Please do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate

曲学阿世 kyoku.gaku.a.sei Literally: bend – study – flatter – society Alternately: Twisting knowledge or reason in order to fit in with a trend or pander to some powerful element of society. Perverting truth in favor of social or political expediency. … Continue reading

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Nor trying at plying

All the songless birds can fly, though 鳴かず飛ばず (Nakazu tobazu; “Nor crying nor flying”) Definition: Quietly waiting one’s chance. Doing nothing for a long time, but with the specific intention of taking action as soon as the opportunity finally comes. … 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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