5

At some point I found that 手を貸す both literally and figuratively means 'to lend a hand' - is the resemblance a coincidence?

3

There are a lot of metaphors in common around the world. This is a good example of one such metaphor - the extension is quite logical (give help > give a hand (to help) > lend a hand), and it wouldn't surprise me to find many more examples of similar metaphors around the world.

There are others that are less common, such as Japanese's 猫をかぶる - the idea of 'cat' isn't cross-culturally connected with 'niceness', so the metaphor is relatively unique. (Compare English 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' for the same idea.)

A good place to start reading about these, if you're interested, is Lakoff and Johnson's famous Metaphors We Live By, a good introduction to the roles and mechanics of metaphors in language and culture.

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  • 1
    Sounds plausible. But if I remember correctly, the idiom 一石二鳥 turns out to be a calque from English, so stronger evidence that 手を貸す is not a calque might involve showing it was attested in earlier stages of the language. – jogloran Jun 21 '15 at 8:49
  • Note that there is also the idiom 手{て}を借{か}りる, "to borrow a hand". – Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 21 '15 at 20:28
  • This may sound nit-picking, but "a wolf in sheep's clothing" is not English but Koine Greek (or Aramean if that is really what Jesus remarked, as it is from 7:15 of the Gospel according to Matthew.) And I think 猫をかぶる is somewhat less "serious" than "a wolf in sheep's clothing." – eltonjohn Jun 22 '15 at 2:28

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