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

3
votes
2answers
142 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
333 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
650 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
528 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
5k 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?
12
votes
4answers
392 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
729 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
211 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
545 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
209 views
12
votes
1answer
747 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
229 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
235 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
328 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
298 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
283 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?
9
votes
4answers
319 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"?
24
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 ...