I'm wondering how 馬鹿も一芸 should be translated into English. EDICT-based dictionary sites list this phrase with the following translation:

even a fool has a talent

Is this translation correct?

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    Where did you see this phrase? – snailplane Oct 29 '14 at 14:59
  • Dictionary says: even a fool has one talent. Guess it's right? – Aki Oct 30 '14 at 4:35
  • @Aki The question is "can we trust the dictionary?". See the discussion on my answer below, especially snailboat's comment. – Earthliŋ Oct 30 '14 at 12:44

I don't think that "even a fool has a talent" is a fitting translation. (If one would want to say that it should be something like 馬鹿にも一芸.)

Rather, 馬鹿も一芸 means something like "even being a fool can be a talent".

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    Honestly, I didn't know this idiom. And for some reason, Google lists many "translation/English dictionary" sites for this word. And higher-ranked pages which are unrelated to "translation/dictionary" were this and this, one of which basically agrees with the Earthliŋ's suggestion. Maybe this is a "Japanese" proverb which is more popular outside of Japan? – naruto Oct 29 '14 at 14:02
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    @3to5 I didn't know that, either. Anyway "even a fool has a talent" and "even being a fool is a talent" both seem reasonable :) The first page Bing returned, which were not related to foreign language in any way, was using it as "being a fool is a talent" (I won't link it). – naruto Oct 29 '14 at 14:40
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    Quite a few dictionaries that I have access to lists this byword. Old WWWJDIC gives the translation "even a fool has one talent", which is what I get from other sources as well. – Oskar Lindberg Oct 29 '14 at 18:02
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    Not a paper dictionary, but this proverb website [ kotowazagyakubiki.seesaa.net/article/354329642.html ] seems to confirm Earthliŋ's statement. The site specifically says that this proverb does not mean "Even a fool will have a strong point". – Anonymous Oct 30 '14 at 6:05
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    It looks like this was added to EDICT in the mid-90s based on a collection of proverbs put together in 1994 by Tim Duncan. When someone responded to this particular idiom with "mmm, I've never heard of it... What is the resource?" Duncan replied that it was from David Galef's 1987 book "'Even Monkeys Fall from Trees' and other Japanese Proverbs". It does appear to be listed in this book, though it says only "Even a fool has one talent" and doesn't happen to list a source. – snailplane Oct 30 '14 at 11:38

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