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I have a quote from this anime, FLCL: 「とにかくさ、バット振んなきゃ話になんないよ」. In the official translation it's translated as "nothing can happen until you swing the bat".

Now my japanese is pretty rusty, as I haven't used it in five years. I understand the meaning of the first part (とにかくさ、バット振んなきゃ) and that seems to match the translation correctly. But I don't understand how does 話になんない translate to "nothing can happen". Any explanation is welcome.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

話になんない=話にならない

Literally you could translate 話にならない as "won't become a story". However, as a phrase it generally has two meanings:

  1. Not worth discussing; be beneath mention; out of the question; unthinkable.
  2. Be pointless (waste of time) trying to discuss the matter with smb.

So, the quoted phrase could be translated more literally as "Anyway, there's nothing to talk about unless you swing the bat". Depending on the context, "nothing can happen" is not a bad equivalent.

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If we uncontract 振んなきゃ, we find that it's undergone these three contractions:

  振らなければ  →  振らなけりゃ    (eba → ya)
  振らなけりゃ  →  振らなきゃ     (erya → ya)
  振なきゃ   →  振なきゃ     (/ran/ → /rn/ → /Nn/)

In other words, the full form of 振んんなきゃ means "If [you] don't swing [the bat]". That's conditional, though, so something should come after it; and if nothing does come after it, we can infer that the rest of the sentence has been deleted:

振らなければ ならない

...which is why なきゃ on its own can have that meaning. However, in this case you cannot infer that ならない has been deleted, because it follows as part of the rest of the sentence. In this case, the consequence of not swinging is 話になんない. Let's uncontract that, as well:

  話になない   →  話になない     (/ran/ → /rn/ → /Nn/)

In this case, 話 means "a topic of discussion" / "something to talk about"; see sense 3 at 大辞泉. So the phrase 話にならない means "[won't] become something to talk about". See also the entry for the phrase itself in 大辞林, which says (among other things):

話題にする価値もない

...which I would translate as "to have no value as a topic of discussion".

Put it all together:

とにかくさ、バットければ話になない

As you can see, it doesn't literally mean "nothing can happen". I would translate it somewhat literally as follows:

Anyway, if [you] don't swing the bat, it won't be worth talking about.

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