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Can anyone explain the etymology of それはそうと【其れはそうと】and possibly the grammar of how it fits into a sentence, which does not seem to follow the normal rules (It should have a copula だ、そうだと?)? I think of it as equivalent to ところで. The Apple dictionary defines it as

〔ついでながら〕by the way; incidentally; 〔さて〕well

and for reference, it also gives the example sentences:

それはそうと昨日は中野さんに会いましたか| By the way, did you see Miss Nakano yesterday?

それはそうとあの本はやはり山田さんのでした| Incidentally, that book was Mr. Yamada's, just as we thought.

それはそうと次の会合はいつにしますか|Well, then, when shall we have our next meeting?

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It seems quite literal to me. 「それはそう」is "that's that (way)", 「と」is "and". "Well that's that, and ...." So it makes sense to mean "by the way". –  istrasci Nov 14 '12 at 23:26
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@istrasci: But と is never used to mean that sort of (conjunctive) 'and'. –  Billy Nov 15 '12 at 1:27
    
@istrasci: Thanks but, if I apply your literal translation, I still find myself inserting "by the way" to join the "Well, that's that, and" to what follows. ["Well, that's that, and, by the way,..."] –  Tim Nov 15 '12 at 14:12
    
@Billy: You're right, must've been crazy Wednesday or something. –  istrasci Nov 15 '12 at 15:17

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Looking at this page which references the 日本語大辞典(小), それはそれとして/それはそう/それはそうと mean:

"それはそれで置いておいて。それはそれで良いとして。そのことは兎も角。"

Which I think could be paraphrased as "leaving that at that"/"leaving that in that way" etc, and is used in reference to putting aside the previous topic of discussion for the present and shifting to another.

I'm guessing, with the phrases related, that the と might take on the meaning of the 2nd definition for として at Daijisen, which is used for shifting from the current topic of conversation to another (I can't find a direct ref in the dictionary for that meaning of と for the time being, but I think it's likely it has that meaning).

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Thanks - subject to anybody else's input, I think you've covered it very well, linking nicely to として has long been another expression I still struggle to define. My native speaking partner tells me "それはそれと" is probably a contraction of それはそれとして the difference is that the latter might be used to express irritation. (I also see that 日本語大辞典 equate this expression to それはともかく、and ところで to それはさておき) –  Tim Nov 17 '12 at 4:05

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