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.

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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 ...
19
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
381 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
651 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) ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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, ...
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"?
9
votes
2answers
487 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".
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.' ...
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 ...
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.
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 ...
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?
7
votes
1answer
391 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 ...
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 ?
7
votes
1answer
112 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
220 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
214 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
414 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
283 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
360 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
230 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 ...
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?
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 ...
6
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
802 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?
5
votes
1answer
111 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
178 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
209 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?
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 ...
4
votes
2answers
261 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
174 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
247 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
1answer
262 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
2answers
351 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. ...
4
votes
1answer
201 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'. ...
4
votes
1answer
299 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
164 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
109 views

How would you use どうもこうもない?

Found two example translations, one is "there is no alternative", the other is "sorry, it was awful". What is the scope of situations where it can be used? Is there a way to translate its nuance into ...
4
votes
2answers
204 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
80 views

Meaning of タッグでやる

According to Wikipedia, a tag team is a two-person team of which only one person plays at a time. Speaking of a long-length work project, 小林 says: 田中とタッグでやる。 Is there any nuance difference with ...
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 ...
3
votes
2answers
137 views

Does 児戯 have the same idiomatic value in Japanese as “child's play” does in English?

In English, "child's play" can literally mean "play performed by a child" or it can be used as an idiom to refer to "something easy". I see that Japanese 児戯 can also mean 子供の遊び (児の戯れ, I guess?) - ...
3
votes
1answer
130 views

Meaning of “gkbrです”

I have noticed the usage of gkbrです in sentences not related to the G insect: 田中さんに掘り返されたことでgkbrです。 恐怖でgkbrですが続きテツヤ待機。 Does it mean "I am afraid and want to crawl under the furniture"?
3
votes
1answer
223 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: ...
3
votes
1answer
78 views

Meaning and usage of ~としたことが

I came across the expression ~としたことが, for example: 私としたことが I'm trying to figure out the meaning and usage of this phrase, but I can't find any English resources that explain it. What does this ...
3
votes
1answer
90 views

Meaning of 家族ポイントを消費

What is the meaning of 家族ポイント and 家族ポイントを消費? Examples: 家族ポイントを消費して行くオプションもありましたが、年の初めから無理をすることもなかろうと看病モード。 かなりの家族ポイントを消費しつつ、札幌歴史ゲーム友の会の例会に久々に参加しました。 ...
3
votes
2answers
258 views

How do you say “after all”, in the sense of reaffirming or justifying a previous statement?

For example: "You should wear a jacket. After all, it's snowing out there." "Of course I bought you a present! It's our anniversary after all." I tried an online dictionary but they gave me a lot ...