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I cannot understand the meaning of 手前 in the following sentence. As far as I know 手前 means "in front of my/your hands" or could be a pronoun. However I haven't seen before the usage like in the sentence below, so could you please explain the meaning.

着物姿の女の子なんて珍しいから、つい眼で追いかけてしまっていた。眼が合って、彼女は口を引き結んで、僕の前で挑みかかる手前な顔をして。

Translation attempt:

"Because it is pretty rare to see a girl wearing kimono, my eyes unintentionally followed her. Our eyes met, she tighten one's jaw and right in front of me..."

~Edited: I think I'm more or less understand the meaning, thanks to Brandon. But I also can't figure out why it's used な here, as if 手前 is na-adjective?

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  • Cannot say if I have ever seen a "Verb + 手前 + な + Noun" structure before. This sounds very "new" to me. It also sounds highly colloquial if not slangy. In "better" writings, one would use 「のような」 or at least 「の」 instead of 「な」.
    – user4032
    Aug 23, 2014 at 22:54
  • I understand the need for this kind of expansionary use of na-adjetive to express something like difference between 女の子の仕草 (behavior of the girl) and 女の子なしぐさ (girly behavior). The most prominent use I've heard in these years is 世界で一番 お ひ め さ ま! (to be most princess-ish in the world).
    – user4092
    Aug 24, 2014 at 3:59

1 Answer 1

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手前【てまえ】 has a number of uses; the pronoun being the much rarer case. Here it means "before" as in time.

挑みかかる手前な顔 A face one would make just before initiating a challenge.

My eyes locked onto her; what with a girl dressed in a kimono being far from common. Our eyes met and she pursed her lips and made a face as if to say "bring it on".

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