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I have this phrase in my JLPT textbook, as one example of the use of バカ:

自分{じぶん}だけバカを見{み}る

The translation offered in the book is:

Waste time and money among others

The English is both awkward and lacks context, so it doesn't help me understand the Japanese at all. The only thing I gain from it is that my own somewhat literal translation is almost certainly wrong. I would translate the Japanese as something like "look only at oneself (to a ridiculous degree)".

Is this some kind of idiomatic usage? What exactly does it mean and why?

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1  
How about that!? dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/174686/m0u –  oldergod Jan 31 '13 at 9:15

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is used when a person has some expectation of what the outcome of the situation will be, but somehow the outcome has been failed to meet his/her expectations in such a foolish way.

Using the examples that Tim has provided,

I thought she is going to show up to meet me, but she didn't and I had waited for almost an hour now. I'm going home. fool of me to believe her. バカを見た。

I thought this house was very cheap and rooms are very clean, but I didn't know that it has been 200 years old and underlying structure is very weak. It was fool of me to buy this house. バカを見た。

Now 自分だけ implies that one has shared some expectations with a number of people, and all of them except you had an expected outcome in the situation.

At dinner, my boss said that the company is going to be in a good shape in a next few years so I made a plan of moving to a new apartment and buying a new car etc etc, only to find out that he was such a drunk when he said that, and nobody except me believed it nor expected such a salary raise. It was so fool of me to believe him. 自分だけバカをみた。

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Thank you for the explanation. It seems I should just throw out the book's translation entirely, and instead, translate 自分だけバカをみた as "only I looked like a fool". Does that sound right? –  Dave M G Feb 1 '13 at 1:58
    
Yes Dave, that sounds right. It makes sense to me. –  c4il Feb 1 '13 at 12:21
    
"You have only to look at yourself to see a fool". or "If you want to see someone dumb just look in the mirror." Do my attempts accurately reflect the phrase? Idk if I am understanding it correctly. –  yadokari Mar 12 '13 at 22:31

My dictionary records it as 慣用 (idiomatic). The two examples are:

1時間も待ってばかを見た|I wasted a whole hour waiting for her.

こんな古い家を買ってばかを見た|I should have known better than to buy such an old house.

I have thought of it as close to もったいない or even "...I was a fool."

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