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There is an enka song with the following stanza:

ひとり手じゃくの お酒とかけて

橋の通わぬ 川ととく

渡りきれない あなたの胸に

酔えば切なく なるばかり

咲くに咲けない 咲くに咲けない

あ~ 恋挽歌

I found the use of the particle と unusual so I tried to find why it was used and it seems to be a wordplay device called nazokake (https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%81%AA%E3%81%9E%E3%81%8B%E3%81%91). Can someone explain if this is indeed the same device used in these lyrics and what the wordplay is, if any. Thanks.

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Yes, this ~とかけて~ととく is a traditional joke pattern known as 謎かけ. See: Meaning of sentence

This unusual と is a variant of a quotative-と. See: Function of と when used with 続く


In these lyrics, two phrases (ひとり手酌のお酒 = a bottle of sake in my hand; 橋の通わぬ川 = a river that no bridge crosses) are presented in a riddle-like fashion, followed immediately by its "answer". However, the standard translation of "What do A and B have in common?" doesn't seem to be very useful in interpreting this song. Instead, in this song, let's consider it as a clichéd expression that vaguely hints at the relationship between the two phrases.

The "answer" part is:

渡りきれない あなたの胸に 酔えば切なくなるばかり

Here, 渡りきれない ("uncrossable") is clearly related to the river, and also can be understood as a metaphor for "your heart being unreachable".

All in all, the song is basically saying "While drinking sake alone, I realize how unreachable your heart is, like a river with no bridge, and this only deepens my sorrow", but in a tricky nazokake-ish fashion.

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  • If 橋の通わぬ川 means 橋の架からぬ川 then this is a very unusual sense of 通う isn't it?
    – N. Hunt
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 3:31
  • @N.Hunt 街道が(京都へ)通う, 橋が通う and so on sound slightly dated, but it doesn't sound odd to me at all. You can find this definition in any dictionary, but 明鏡国語辞典 has a "古風" remark.
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 3:52
  • Without a direction specified, like 京都へ, it did seem odd, but I understand the usage now, thank you.
    – N. Hunt
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 4:44

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