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I've seen this sentence

許すまじくは許さない。俺自身は主義としたそうした一線を持たないが、だからといってそれを持つ人間を軽んじることはしないだろう。

and I would like to know what is the meaning of まじくは so that I can understand the expression 許すまじくは許さない.

Making an attempt to get some hint through machine translation, I've got the following.

"Forgive me, but I won't forgive you. I myself don't have that kind of principled line, but that doesn't mean I don't look down on people who do."

Although I know there may be some flaws in this translation, is 許すまじくは許さない referring about a moral principal, about a way of being? I must say I'm somewhat lost when it comes to fully understanding the whole idea of the original sentence and translating it.

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    I have a feeling 許すまじきは would be more correct.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 3, 2023 at 19:54

2 Answers 2

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The first sentence does seem like a moral principle, so the subject of 許す is not "I" but generic "one".

許すまじくは許さない。俺自身は主義としたそうした一線を持たないが、だからといってそれを持つ人間を軽んじることはしないだろう。

One shall not forgive the unforgivable — I myself do not have such a "(red) line" as a principle, but this does not mean I disdain those who have one. (i.e., I personally do not hold the belief of "an eye for an eye", but I wouldn't stop those who believe in it.)

まじ ("ought not") is an auxiliary that is mostly archaic but is occasionally used like this in modern Japanese. See: How to parse 政治家にあるまじき発言?

As aguijonazo pointed out, grammatically speaking, this sentence should have been: 許すまじは許さない, where 許すまじき is a noun phrase that means "the unforgivable" or "what you must not forgive". まじき is an attributive form (連体形) of まじ, and an attributive form served as a noun in archaic Japanese. In this case, it's likely that the author attempted to use an old expression based on classical Japanese and made a simple grammatical error. After all, even native Japanese speakers don't usually remember how to conjugate まじ!

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  • So, are you saying that 詳しくは知らない is wrong and should be 詳しきは知らない? 夜遅くになって should 夜遅きになって? If the author intended a true classical reading, then くは would be interpreted as a conditional, as stated above. Since it probably isn't, I am suggesting the 連用形+は is being used analogously to 詳しくは, rather than being a mistake for the 連体形. Nouns formed from the 連用形 of adjectives are certainly limited in number, but there is also the possible influence of く語法 forms, like 思惑 おもわく. So, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt, and assume his grammar is not faulty.
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 5, 2023 at 23:01
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    @N.Hunt As you said, that grammar (詳しくは知らない) works with only a small set of adjectives, and 許すまじく is not one of them. Of course, the "analogy" might have unconsciously influenced the author's choice of words, but whether other native speakers feel comfortable with it is another matter. Since at least two native speakers here intuitively felt it's a bit strange, that means something.
    – naruto
    Nov 6, 2023 at 2:00
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    Further investigation suggests that this usage probably isn't (unconsciously) formed by analogy with the other phrase types I mentioned. It seems more likely to be influenced by expressions such as 然るべくは, 望むべくは and なるべくは which are formally conditionals ('if it can/should be'; 'if one should desire'; 'if it should eventuate = 'if it is possible' and these can easily be reinterpreted as nouns), so 許すまじくは is a conditional clause, "if it should not be forgiven". An alternate translation in English would be 'what should not be forgiven'.
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 10, 2023 at 1:21
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    @N.Hunt Ah, that seems plausible. Modern speakers don't feel a conditional sense from such くは, and 望むべくは is mentally closer to "What I desire is, ...".
    – naruto
    Nov 10, 2023 at 4:37
  • Can we construct the idiom in an analogous way in modern Japanese? I guess it would become 許しまいこと? Dec 6, 2023 at 8:15
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It would seem that this usage is entirely analagous to 詳しくは, 遅くまで, 近くに, (朝)早くから and so on, where the 連用形 of an adjective is used as a noun, 許すまじくは thus meaning 'what isn't to be/shouldn't be forgiven'.

In classical Japanese the 連用形 of both verbs and adjectives can be followed by は, which has the force of ば, forming a conditional, which would also seem to be a possible interpretation here, 'if it shouldn't be forgiven, then...', but you wouldn't expect to see this in modern Japanese (I thnk).

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  • Then, could まじくは be understood as "should not", "must not"? And how do you understand the whole sentence?
    – kanachan
    Nov 4, 2023 at 8:36
  • My attempt would be: "'I don't forgive what shouldn't be forgiven.' I personally don't share this idea (meaning I'm able to forgive unforgivable things), but that doesn't mean I can't understand people who do (people who do not forgive grave affronts).". But I'm not sure if this interpretation of the original sentence would be correct or not.
    – kanachan
    Nov 4, 2023 at 8:37
  • Not only could it be taken that way here, I think it should, in light of the context. I assume you must know that ~まじ is the negative counterpart of ~べし. This has many meanings, 'will', 'is likely to', but also 'must', 'ought', 'should', and even the negative of ~べし has the meaning of 'should not', so you are correct to take ~まじくは here as 'must/should not'. Your whole translation is fine.
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 4, 2023 at 20:02
  • The only comment I would make is that your translation of 主義としてそうした一線を持たない as "don't share this idea" admirably captures the sense, but is a little removed from the Japanese. You always have the problem of whether to be faithful to the original Japanese, which may not be possible, or be creative. Here Japanese 主義 and 一線 suggest, to me, English 'line of thought/thinking'; can that be made to work?
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 4, 2023 at 20:02
  • I must apologize for a misleading remark---in classical Japanese は can indeed follow the 連用形 of adjectives to make a conditional, but in the case of verbs, it only follows the 連用形 of verb + つ, one of the particles that indicates completed action, hence, ~ては.
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 5, 2023 at 4:10

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