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I am new here and very happy that I found this webpage, where everyone can ask questions concerning Japanese. ^^ I am studying Japanese in my 2nd year now and in my free time, I love to translate song lyrics, which are not always easy.

Currently, I'm struggling with the phrase ボタンを掛け違う.

I've tried to read Japanese explanations for it, but I still can't figure out what exactly the concept of this phrase is. That's why I would be very grateful if someone could briefly explain me the concept of this phrase.

The context in the song is 掛け違ったボタンは直ぐほつれた, which makes it even more difficult to find like the one phrase to insert into the lyrics in English. To keep it very short, the song is about a person, whose world is falling apart and who can't hear any mercy anymore.

Thank you very much in advance!

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It is a metaphor (unless the song is actually about buttons) used to describe an interpersonal relationship.

「ボタンを[掛]{か}け[違]{ちが}う」 is a fairly common metaphor meaning "to have small misunderstandings", "to be at cross purposes", "to fail to move closely together", "to continuously have little disagreements", etc.

「掛け違ったボタンは[直]{す}ぐほつれた」 might be difficult for you because the author is creating a new phrase using an existing metaphor. Once again, unless the song is about real buttons, this phrase is a metaphor as well.

It would mean something like "small misunderstandings easily lead to other (even larger) misunderstandings", "once at cross purposes, it only became more difficult for us to unite", etc.

It is saying that things are starting to fall in a vicious cycle now.

  • Thank you very much for this detailed answer!! Now I understood the concept of this phrase, this was exactly what I was looking for ^_^ – Lea Feb 24 '15 at 17:23
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ボタンを掛ける means to button a button, so ボタンを掛け違う would break down like this:

ボタンを掛け(to button) + 違う(to not match the correct~)

This can be roughly translated as 'to misbutton a button'

So the song lyric (掛け違ったボタンは直ぐほつれた) would mean something along the lines of "A misbuttoned button soon becomes loose."

I hope this explanation helps!

  • So you believe the song is actually about buttons. – l'électeur Feb 21 '15 at 0:14
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    What? No, of course not. – Dナイ Feb 21 '15 at 2:04

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