Questions about those phrases with fixed words used as a single unit, which typically have a meaning beyond what is obvious from its constituent parts.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

11
votes
2answers
2k views

Ways to end a phone conversation

Despite its being one of the most basic element of daily-life Japanese, I often find myself looking for a proper way to end certain phone conversations. Of course, I know the standard: [それでは]失礼します, ...
6
votes
3answers
273 views

How to say “all in all”

I have been many times blocked in a conversation because I have no way to translate "all in all" in those general contexts: All in all it takes 15 minutes to get there All in all this movie was ...
4
votes
1answer
105 views

When to use 出て来る over 出る

Here is a sentence from the children's story ももたろう, describing when the child appears from within the giant peach. 桃の中から赤ちゃんが出てきました。 My dictionary lists 出て来る as meaning "to come out" with a note ...
3
votes
0answers
117 views

“Automatic Doors Don't Open For Him”

I remember hearing this idiom which meant someone was so lowly, they were not even considered a person. I don't know the source, but remember it was referred to as a 'common Japanese idiom'. ...
1
vote
1answer
97 views

Opposite of 歯止め?

According to WWWJDIC, 歯止め is used as follows: 歯止めをかける; 歯止めを掛ける (exp,v1) to curb; to halt; to apply brakes; to put an end to The English translations have a pretty good correspondence with the ...
2
votes
1answer
161 views

What is a good idiom for 'not being invested'?

In English there are a few idioms that are variants on the phrase, I don't really have a horse in this race, so... which essentially means "I'm not invested in the outcome of the current ...
6
votes
1answer
907 views

Taking Class, Course, Lecture - Which verb is fit?

I would like to know how we say taking class or course or lecture in japanese. I have heard about 「クラスを受ける」 and 「クラスを取る」. Are there significant difference? And Is there any other verb we can use ...
0
votes
2answers
221 views

What is the literal meaning of 'マスコミにバラして'?

The sentence is, 'マスコミにバラしてもいいんですよ?' What does this mean, literally? Also, is this figure of speech frequently used? If it is, could you please give me some instances when it is used in daily life? ...
6
votes
2answers
545 views

Is there a Japanese phrase equivalent to the English phrase: “Guilty Pleasure”?

I am at a loss of words to describing to my host family why I sometimes listen to "bad" or embarrassing music. Is there a japanese phrase that can help me tell them it's a "guilty pleasure" of mine?
2
votes
1answer
119 views

Question on the idiom 頭が回転しない

I found the following dialogue on lang-8: A: 駄目だ、飲み過ぎて頭が回転しない。 B: 仕事、明日にしたら? A: Oh no, I drank too much so I can't concentrate on it. B: Why not do your work tomorrow? So does 頭が回転する ...
0
votes
2answers
190 views

心は出血している - what exactly the Japanese idiom for it?

is there the same expression in Japanese for good russian idiom 'Сердце кровью обливается'? 「心は出血している」? 'My heart is bleeding' is not very accurate, not really verbatim. This idiom in Russian ...
3
votes
1answer
184 views

What does “だがたまには下も見るもんだぜ” mean?

There is a suggestively conversation between two men who are fighting each other. A is claimed to be strongest wizard and B is nearly strong as A. Here is the conversation, A:世の中上には上がおる B: ...
4
votes
1answer
108 views

Is ネコでも分かる・サルでも分かる idiomatic?

I heard the expression ネコでも分かる... mentioned in a TV drama as title for a (fictional) book, in the sense of "...for dummies". A quick search on Amazon brings up a few (real) titles ネコでも分かる... or ...
2
votes
2answers
756 views

How to playfully scold someone?

I haven't heard from a good friend for a while, I would like to reproach him playfully, but have no clue what the appropriate thing to say would be. Would 恥を知れ! be appropriate if said in a funny ...
7
votes
1answer
177 views

Does 換骨奪胎 have negative connotation?

I looked at several online dictionaries, all of which didn't seem to me that the expression doesn't have negative sense by definition. However the book I'm reading makes me feel the author implies ...
1
vote
1answer
361 views

At what level should we be able to understand Yojijukugo?

In my experience, Chinese language learners are introduced to these 4-character phrases at an early stage (around Chinese 3 in my high school); what I want to know is there a certain aptitude level ...
3
votes
1answer
309 views

Meaning/origin of 三寒四温【さんかんしおん】

Recently I was introduced to the 四字熟語【よじじゅくご】: 三寒四温【さんかんしおん】 ... to describe the type of changing weather one often experiences around late Winter/early Spring. As to the literal meaning of ...
3
votes
2answers
182 views

Is there an idiomatic meaning for 口の中?

I read this phrase in a book: ・・・・[彼]は口の中でうなった。 I'm guessing the うなった is 唸った, or groan, but I'm curious as to if 口の中 has a meaning or implication other than the obvious, inside his mouth. How ...
6
votes
1answer
266 views

How to describe the inside of one's mind?

On one page in my book, I came across 3 different phrases for, what seems to me, subtly different ways of saying the same thing. The first was: 頭の隅に Then: 脳裏に The information I was able to find ...
13
votes
2answers
354 views

What is the meaning and root of 意味くじピーマン?

Recently a friend of mine threw the term 意味くじピーマン (imi kuji pi-man) into a story she was telling, and it totally threw me off. At first I thought, because I wasn't sure how to parse the くじ part, it ...
5
votes
1answer
161 views

The thin line? What is 線がうすい's meaning and etymology?

I just found this phrase in my book (I don't know how much context is relevant, this is the entire sentence): それにな、わたしが商人の線がうすい、といった理由はもうひとつある。 I looked up the phrase and found this 線が細い. It ...
6
votes
1answer
277 views

Translation of 「そんなことない」

What is a correct translation for 「そんなことない」 and when can it be used? I understand the "this is wrong"/"this is not correct" general sense but is this considered either as harsh or a gentle way of ...
4
votes
2answers
194 views

根も葉も火種も — is it proverbial?

I suspect「根も葉も火種も」 is an allusion to something I do not recognize. To what does it refer? Consider this couplet from an amusing song released in March by IOSYS called 「ステマの女」(CD and promotional ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

What does ただいま actually mean?

I was wondering what the literal translation really means. I've seen it translated as I'm home but I've also seen it in a few situations where the person wasn't arriving home.
6
votes
1answer
338 views

Understanding “よりを戻す” and “止めておこう”

I don't think us getting together tonight is such a good idea. やっぱり今夜、よりを戻すのは止めておこう。 I would like to understand this sentence better, specifically the (idiomatic?) expression, "よりを戻す." I ...
4
votes
1answer
231 views

Questions on the Japanese equivalent of “window of opportunity”

In English we have a saying "window of opportunity" which means that there is specific time period where a certain event can occur. Based on that expression we talk about a "launch window" when it ...
4
votes
2answers
249 views

What does あらいだす mean?

What does あらいだす mean? I have been hearing it from my colleague and based on his explanation it means to identify. For example identify the problem. I tried to search the net and it only results to ...
9
votes
2answers
397 views

Japanese idiom equivalent to “take with a grain of salt”

Is there a Japanese idiom equivalent to "take with a grain of salt"? In other words, an idiom which means "don't accept this information as completely true or the complete truth".
7
votes
1answer
208 views

Is there a figurative use to 春風?

I often hear 春風【はるかぜ】(or, much less often, 春風【しゅんぷう】) used to describe the characteristically windy weather of early Spring. I was also certain I had heard it used on occasions as a figurative ...
4
votes
1answer
277 views

What does the idiom 体が余る mean?

I found a list of Japanese idioms (without translations) that I wanted to study, so I sat down and looked up the meanings. Most of them I found in my trusty denshi jishyo, and a couple of them I had ...
3
votes
2answers
138 views

Is 東西二つ idiomatic?

I came across this sentence about a traditional festival in Japan: 阿月の神明祭は、阿月地区を東西二つに分けて行われる災厄除けや病気除け、豊作を祈願して行われる。 (link) The general meaning is clear, but what I don't fully understand is this ...
6
votes
2answers
291 views

What is the meaning of お気の毒に and how is it used?

Although the there are several definitions in the dictionary: my condolences that's too bad my sympathies What does お気の毒に literally mean? I'm guessing that it might have something to do with ...
12
votes
3answers
548 views

What's bugging the Japanese language?

In my JLPT workbook, it has a section which gives a list of idioms that use [虫]{むし}. 仕事{しごと}の虫 (worker bee) 点取{てんとり}虫 (derogatory term for a student who tries too hard) 虫がいい (selfish) ...
9
votes
1answer
465 views

Making sense out of Japanese proverbs

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.' ...
7
votes
3answers
3k views

“to make a telephone call”

In some older learning material I came across, they use 「電話をかける」 for "to make a telephone call". When/why did this come to be replaced by 「電話する」 in popular usage?
11
votes
4answers
358 views

“Unsolvable problem”

What is the correct construction of "unsolvable problem"? Is it "解{と}けられない問題{もんだい}"?(Question 1) Plain(intransitive): 解{と}ける "To be solved". Potential form(of intransitive): 解けられる "can be ...
2
votes
1answer
536 views

Difference of 「なんとかなる」 vs. 「だいじょうぶ」

are 「なんとかなる」 and 「だいじょうぶ」the same? 大丈夫か? なんとかなるか? 大丈夫よ。 何とかなるよ。 大丈夫さ。 なんとかなるさ。 だいじょうぶだった。 なんとかなった。 大丈夫じゃない/だいじょうぶじゃなかった。 なんとかならない/なんとかならなかった。 ... thanks sorry if ...
12
votes
1answer
194 views

Can I always use 色々な or do I have to use 色々の sometimes?

On the web I can find many occurrences of both 色々な and 色々の. 色々な seems to be used more often though. Can I always use 色々な and get away with it, or is 色々の the only choice in some particular cases? If ...
9
votes
1answer
495 views

Comparing 気にする vs. 気になる

Consider this example sentence from SPACEALC: あなたがどうしているか気になっていた。  "I was concerned about how you were." What is the difference when 気にする is used instead? I.e., あなたがどうしているか気にしていた。 ~なる ...
5
votes
2answers
198 views
12
votes
1answer
602 views

Why “社会の窓” (shakai no mado)?

A few years ago I was told by a Japanese friend "社会の窓" (shakai no mado). It was explained after some giggling that this is what is said to a man who has inadvertently left his fly open, and that it ...
5
votes
2answers
202 views

What is the etymology of 赤の他人?

彼は赤の他人だよ — He's a total stranger to me How did "red stranger" come to mean "total stranger" in Japanese? Is there anything that makes this expression make sense more than "That's just what it ...
5
votes
1answer
226 views

How did the ざ in 様{ざま}みろ get the dakuten?

I am under impression that the first syllable in a word gets a dakuten when it is transformed into voiced form under the effect of rendaku. But in the idiomatic expression 様みろ {ざまみろ}, the kanji 様 ...
7
votes
1answer
302 views

“Never say never”

Since there is apparently no literal translation for "never", how would you translate this idiom ? What periphrasis would you use to express the same meaning ?
8
votes
2answers
263 views

Saying 「おかわり」 when requesting second helping: what is being exchanged?

I am aware that the phrase 「おかわり」 that is used when asking for second helping (of meals especially) is an idiomatic expression, so its usage is understood as it is. But, I'm curious about the origin ...
6
votes
2answers
232 views

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば?

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば? How would you translate this?
17
votes
4answers
983 views

How would one convey “get over it” in Japanese?

As a foreigner in Japan, one has to get used to the fact that some Japanese will compliment you on things that are too mundane to really deserve mention. Like the fact that you can use chopsticks, eat ...
9
votes
4answers
302 views

Etymology of 右に出る

What is the etymology of 右に出る, as in 「右に出る者はいない」? What on earth makes the right superior to the left? Relatedly, is 左に出る ever used to mean "inferior to"?
23
votes
2answers
2k views

Where does “もしもし” (moshimoshi) for answering the telephone come from?

Does the term "もしもし" (moshimoshi) predate the telephone? Does it have any use besides answering the phone? Where does it come from, is it just a reduplication of "もし" (moshi) "if", and if so how does ...