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I was never able to make any sense out of the following Japanese proverbs or idiomatic expressions:

豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死んでしまえ。
'Hit your head against a corner of a cake of tofu, and die.'

...の爪の垢を煎じて飲む。
'take extract from one's dirt/wax under the nail, and drink it'

They are nonsense to me, and the latter is also disgusting. How can you die in such a way? What is the purpose of drinking such thing? How can you make a sense out of them?

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Maybe, the first one is saying you have a soft head. The second one might be like saying "eat s**t" in English... –  silvermaple Dec 14 '11 at 0:40
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The first reminds me of things along the lines of "could drown in a puddle"/"could trip over his own shadow" in English –  nkjt Dec 14 '11 at 15:17
    
The first one is from rakugo, which sometimes spout out nonsense. –  syockit Dec 31 '11 at 14:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死んでしまえ。

Used to say that a person is so stupid (that he would believe this and real find a piece tofu to die). (source)

...の爪の垢を煎じて飲む。

Use the dirt under the nail of ( some expertise ) as a drug, (you'll get some of his talent). (source)

名人の爪の垢を煎じて飲めば少しは腕が上がるだろうに

It'll be hard to make any sense out of them if you see them alone. I'd recommend you to find some reference.

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+1 for nice explanation. Can you please quote some source where I can get Japanese proverbs/idioms/phrases with a good English explanation. –  Mudassir Dec 15 '11 at 12:33
    
@Mudassir I haven't come across one yet ... –  fefe Dec 15 '11 at 12:44
    
@Mudassir What about a reference like this: languagerealm.com/japanese/japaneseproverbs.php ? It's not as complete as a book would be... but, there are at least a few proverbs (with their explanations,) listed. –  summea Feb 29 '12 at 0:47
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@summea: Thats really nice. Thanks for sharing. –  Mudassir Feb 29 '12 at 3:55

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