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I saw the phrase よいではないか (yoi de wa nai ka) in a comic strip, and decided to look it up because its literal meaning of "isn't it good?" didn't seem to make any sense.

My research indicated that it was related to something a man says while unwrapping a woman's waist cloth on her kimono (such as in this cheaply made iPhone game), which confused me even more because there was nothing remotely suggesting something that would make one say よいではないか.

Can anyone explain the history behind this phrase and its current usage?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

「よいではないか」 literally is "Isn't it OK", and usually it means "That's OK" or "No problem".

In general, 「よいではないか」 is a pompous expression and used by high-ranked people, such as kings, mainly in fiction. Usually real people use shorter expressions such as "いいでしょ", "いいよね", "ダメ?", "問題ある?".

So-called 「よいではないか」 is also a famous recurring joke in Japan, and that's why you got many search results related to this. This is how it goes:

Woman in kimono: 「○○様、おやめ下さい!」 Please stop it, sir!
Man: 「グヘヘ、よいではないか、よいではないか~」 Hehe, don't worry, it's fine...
Woman: 「あーーれーー」 Oh, nooooo! (kimono stripped)
(Maybe some kind of hero jumps in)

I doubt real people in the Edo period played like this (belts in kimono are not that long!), and apparently almost no one knows who did this first. I remember a Japanese comedian 志村けん (Ken Shimura) did this frequently in his comedy show 志村けんのバカ殿様 in the 1980's.

If neither of these explanations still makes sense, please edit the question and provide more context.

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Nope, it's perfect. Thanks! –  Joe Z. Jul 13 at 19:04
    
The comic strip I saw it on was also from pixiv, by the way, but I didn't want to link it because some people might have found it weird. –  Joe Z. Jul 13 at 19:06
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Please note that the woman in this scene is not necessarily refusing; this is already a kind of established gag. This is something people want to mimic and laugh at when they wear kimono or yukata, even maybe between female friends. –  naruto Jul 14 at 0:31
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I took the liberty of replacing "No problem, no problem" since it seemed a bit off. "No problem" is usually used to reply to thanks or apologies. –  dainichi Jul 14 at 1:11
    
@dainichi ありがとうございます m(_ _)m –  naruto Jul 14 at 5:43

While よい (or more modernly いい) can mean "good", it is often used in places where in English we would use "ok" or "all right". In the case of the phone game the man is trying to undress the woman while pressuring her to go along by saying "isn't it all right?"

This comes to mind: いいじゃないの?ダメよー、ダメダメ!

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