ことわざ. Phrases with fixed words used as a single unit, typically with a meaning beyond what is obvious from its constituent parts.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

29
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
787 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) ...
15
votes
4answers
474 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Which part of speech is the 「ぞ」 in 「神のみぞ知るセカイ」?

「神{かみ}のみぞ知{し}るセカイ」 is the title of a manga/anime series but I'm not asking about the anime. I'm just curious about the 「ぞ」 part in the title. I know there is a ぞ particle that is similar to よ, such ...
13
votes
2answers
411 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
770 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".
12
votes
1answer
219 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
8k views

When/why did 電話する replace 電話をかける?

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
2answers
3k 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, ...
11
votes
1answer
108 views

What is the image/feeling/concept behind 面白半分に◯◯する?

In a phrase like: 面白{おもしろ}半分に見る or 面白半分に言う What is the concept behind the 半分 and why is it connected with the verb using に? Is it like "all things have two parts/aspects": serious (真剣半分?) ...
11
votes
1answer
614 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
337 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"?
10
votes
2answers
493 views

Japanese equivalent of the phrase “wrapped around your finger”?

The English phrase "wrapped around your finger" usually means that a male is so fond of a girl that she can get him to do almost anything she wants, or to give her whatever she wants. In my case, it ...
9
votes
1answer
768 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
395 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
696 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.' ......
8
votes
1answer
2k 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.
8
votes
1answer
254 views

Meaning of ~と言われればそれまでだが、…

I have found this sentence: 好みの問題と言われればそれまでだが、私はこの店の内装はなんとなく好きになれない。 To my poor understanding it sounds similar to: 好みの問題と言われても、私はこの店の内装はなんとなく好きになれない。 If it is completely different and I ...
8
votes
2answers
1k 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?
8
votes
1answer
244 views

Does 換骨奪胎 have negative connotation?

In the book ロボット学論集 by 瀬名 秀明, I saw this sentence (not exact since I'm solely depending on my memory) 2004 年公開の映画 "I, Robot" は,Isaac Asimov の同名の小説を換骨奪胎した別物である. I looked at several online ...
8
votes
1answer
197 views

What is ~やまさりけん and what part of sentence is it used as?

In the scenes of fight in old stories, I sometimes encountered a phrase ~やまさりけん usually in the compound form: 力やまさりけん 腕やまさりけん What is the exact meaning of the phrase and what part of the ...
8
votes
1answer
227 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
476 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?
7
votes
1answer
515 views

“The eye (crust ?) laughs at the booger”?

What does this phrase mean? 目くそ鼻くそを笑うだよね。 Is it some sort of idiom? Does it have a parallel in English?
7
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
112 views

Is 立つ in 顔が立つ is always imperfective? If so why?

I understand that the word 立つ has various meanings, but basically can be used to describe a state (for inanimate and animate objects) as well as a process (for animate objects). To describe a state ...
6
votes
3answers
752 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
340 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
399 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 will ...
6
votes
2answers
262 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 means"?...
6
votes
2answers
413 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 "...
6
votes
1answer
436 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 ?
6
votes
1answer
250 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
816 views

“over in the blink of an eye”?

What is the idiom "in the blink of an eye" in Japanese? I want to use it to say that two years will be over in the blink of an eye or "before you even notice". (For a detailed discussion and ...
5
votes
2answers
295 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 "...
5
votes
2answers
152 views

Takasugi Shinsaku's quote

I ran across this quote from the famous samurai Takasugi Shinsaku: "動けば雷電の如く、発すれば風雨の如し". My (really) clumsy translation would be something like "If thunder and lightning were to waver, water and wind ...
5
votes
1answer
255 views

Is “背中に嫌な汗を掻いた” an idiomatic phrase?

Okay I read a light novel and found a phrase that seems nonsensical to me. The sentence is: "私を見ながら背中に嫌な汗を掻いた。" The context is that a character in the story just realize something about the Main ...
5
votes
1answer
316 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
176 views

~あらんことを: Slight Variations and Idiomatic Degree

Consider 神のご加護があらんことを How is あらんことを different from あろうことを ? (c.f. archaic -an conjugation) Apart from sounding archaic, are there other functional differences? How is {あらん・あろう}ことを different from ...
5
votes
1answer
115 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
191 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
257 views

Do Japanese people tend to be vague even when talking about people their listeners know?

I've noticed that a couple of my Japanese friends, when talking about their plans, might say something like 「友達に会う」, "I'm meeting a friend", even though the unnamed "friend" is someone we both know. ...
5
votes
2answers
223 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
224 views

Do 気が[付]{つ}く and 気[付]{づ}く have the same meaning?

If they both mean the same, is が optional?
4
votes
1answer
192 views

ムダ足だった == useless leg?

When I look up the phrase 無駄足だった, I see it translated as "It was a Wild goose chase." I found this bizarre, since it seems like it would mean "It was a useless foot/leg." is this some sort of figure ...
4
votes
1answer
437 views

Meaning of あさっての方向 “Asatte no houkou”

I just heard something like: この話があさっての方向に向かっています Kono hanashi ga asatte no houkou ni mukatteimasu It was used when one of conversation partners said something off topic or loosely tied to it. ...
4
votes
1answer
272 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: それはよく知ってる....
4
votes
2answers
563 views

“Something came up” in Japanese

I always use this in English to excuse myself from a planned meeting/meet up (professional or personal). Basically, I don't want to bother the interlocutor with the details and notify them I am busy. ...