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I'm interested in an exact translation of the particle まで used in this Internet meme:

童貞が許されるのは小学生までだよね

In case you can't read the image, here's a transcription:

「えーマジ 童貞!?」
「キモーイ」
「童貞が許されるのは小学生までだよねー」
「キャハハハハハハ」

Intuitively, the translation should be something like this:

Only elementary school students are allowed to be virgins

This translation is backed by the translation of a variation of this phrase found on Touhou Wiki:

イージモードが許されるのは 小学生までだよねー

The only people allowed (to play) in easy mode are elementary school kids.

However, according to the grammar guide and goo jisho, まで can only mean "even", not "only". Following a dictionary example:

老人まで踊っている

Even the elderly are dancing.

I could try translating it as:

Even elementary school students are allowed to be virgins (?)

But it does not sound right.

Could it be that by saying "小学生まで" we imply "生まれた時から小学生まで"?

Only elementary school students and younger children are allowed to be virgins

So, how should まで be translated here and why?

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2  
This should be translated "No image". –  Earthliŋ Oct 19 '13 at 23:48
1  
I'm not entirely confident, but it appears to be saying "They can only be virgins up to middle school". –  Ataraxia Oct 19 '13 at 23:48
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@Ataraxia This is what I'm thinking as well. Western languages seem to treat an adult person as the reference point for age ranges introduced with the word "even". For example, "even schoolchidren" would usually mean "schoolchildren and older" and "even old people" would usually mean "old people and younger", unless noted otherwise. Perhaps in Japanese this presumption is weaker and the scope of the age range defined with the word "even" is more often taken from the context? (I hope what I just wrote makes any sense...) –  vovick Oct 20 '13 at 0:06
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You can certainly say using まで that "even kids" are doing a thing X which is more normal for adults. In fact I think it is not (always necessarily) age-based but rather expectation-based. The implication is that the groups that are doing X are extensive and include those who are expected to be doing X, and the range of included people extends "up to even" the less-expected group marked by まで (e.g. kids). What the expected group is depends on context. –  Hyperworm Oct 20 '13 at 2:58
    
@Hyperworm Thank you very much for the comment. After some deep thinking it resolved all my doubts, alongside with Earthling's comments. So, depending on the context, "小学生まで" can mean both "even elementary school (age) and younger" and "even elementary school (age) and older". –  vovick Oct 20 '13 at 17:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

まで means "until, up to":

You can get away with being a virgin until elementary school. or
Virginity is allowed up to elementary school.

When まで is translated "even" it is used in the same sense as "until/up to and including, e.g.

老人まで踊っている
People up to and including the elderly are dancing. = Even the elderly are dancing.

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So what exactly makes まで translate here as "until" and not "even"? The "even" variant ("Virginity is allowed even for elementary school.") would assert that virginity is "allowed" for elementary school and younger age, but it would not explicitly imply it is not allowed for older age. On the other hand, if まで is used here in the sense of "up to", as you suggested ("Virginity is allowed up to elementary school.") the meaning would be different, since it would explicitly state that anyone older than elementary school students are not allowed to be virgins. –  vovick Oct 20 '13 at 10:43
2  
Well, one comment at a time. (1) i don't think "even" is a good translation of まで here. 許される means "be able to get away with" or a loose "be allowed", not a strict "be allowed". So "virginity is allowed up to elementary school" means that really anyone older should not be a virgin, but even from the English sentence one should be able to understand that this is not a legal requirement... (2) To understand how to translate まで, a full sentence with context helps a lot, but its meaning is always "until" in some sense. –  Earthliŋ Oct 20 '13 at 12:39
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(3) Specifying a lower bound with まで is possible, like you suggested: この節、(大人だけじゃなくて)子供までお金持ちが増えてる. I guess the "even" translation is most natural when まで does not refer to a time bound, but to a different bound. E.g. people who usually dance: Alice, John; person who never dances: Bob. 昨日のパーティーすごかったよ。ボブまで踊ってた。Everyone that usually dances, up to and including Bob, who never dances, danced last night. –  Earthliŋ Oct 20 '13 at 12:50
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made never means "even". Sentences that use "made" may have the connotations of "even", but it's not created by that word. If it is surprising or unexpected that something is possible until a certain limit, then there is the sense of "even". "Even" corresponds to words/constructions like "sae" and "-noni". "[Not] even if" to "-de/-te mo". and such. –  Kaz Oct 20 '13 at 18:13
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Yes, まで implies an upper limit, we can use an upper limit in these situations even in English: 子供までお金持ちが増えてる It might even go so far that children... // 子供にまで笑われる He (is now at/has reached now) the point where even children are laughing at him... –  blutorange Oct 20 '13 at 20:11

I think I can help you with this. I'm going to borrow from cypher with a tip of my hat. Really great lines. Skip to the end for the short answer. I would translate it as:

えーマジ童貞!? Huh, for real? He's a virgin!?

キモーイ Gross!

童貞が許されるのは小学生までだよねー Virgin is so, like, elementary school...

Here's my explanation:

  • 童貞 virgin
  • が許されるのは

This is close to 'is acceptable'. 'OK' works to. I think using the word "allowed" is trying to hard too make the dictionary word fit in the sentence. Like, here's a common topic on the internet: アニメ見たりゲームするのって何歳まで許されるの? They're saying how old is acceptable to watch anime and play video games? You know, you're 'allowed' to play them until any age you want. But what's OK? what's socially acceptable?

  • 小学生までだよねー

UP TO elementary school students. What they don't say, but you have to imply, is the FROM half. Namely, '...but not FROM Junior High (age)... tee hee hee.'

The Short version

I made a long response but to answer your question much shorter, まで is like 'up to and including'. You are an elementary student up to and including the time period until you're not. Then you're something else... like a junior high student. In this, apparently it's acceptable to be a virgin up to this time, but after that you are 'gross'.

I hope that makes sense.

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1  
Although it may be impossible to have this reflected in an English translation, but the subject of the original sentence is definitely 許されるの, not 童貞. –  非回答者 Oct 21 '13 at 0:33

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