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How does 丼勘定 {どんぶりかんじょう} (sloppy accounting) related to 丼 {どんぶり} (bowl of rice with toppings)? I mean, why どんぶり of all foods and things? Was there special history for the origin of this set phrase?

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  • @Karl True, but I believe that English idiom must have a history. For example "kick the bucket": infoplease.com/dictionary/brewers/kick-bucket.html (which interestingly has nothing to do with what modern English refers as "bucket") .. so here I'm asking for the history why donburi is selected. I imagined must have something to do with feudal age joke or something.
    – Lukman
    Aug 25, 2011 at 3:30
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    It's the first time I hear this expression, but I'd say it quite makes sense intuitively... 丼 does give me the image of ingredients somewhat haphazardly thrown in together... The same way "stew" or "brew" might be used to describe something similar in English...
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2011 at 5:38

2 Answers 2

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Judging by the following link, どんぶり in this phrase didn't originally refer to the bowl, but a pocket in the front of an apron, where money was kept: http://gogen-allguide.com/to/donburikanjyou.html

If someone was throwing all the incoming money into one pocket and fishing out change for customers from same, they probably didn't have a great idea at any one time of how much they had or any way of keeping track.

http://www.samue.co.jp/shop/haori/ooedo4/ooedo4.html - this has an Edo-style "どんぶり" for a little visual reference (you'll note they use どんぶり勘定 with the hiragana).

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  • That totally makes sense! Now this is another example where the actual origin of a phrase is nothing like what anyone would guess from the literal meaning (similar to "kick the bucket" case where it did not come from somebody standing on a bucket and kicking it to hang himself)
    – Lukman
    Aug 26, 2011 at 1:54
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First, let's be a bit more precise. saiga-jp.com gives

丼 a china bowl

丼勘定 sloppy accounting, spending money unsystematically

i.e. the character refers to the bowl itself directly, and only by extension to food served in such a bowl.

Seems to me like it's a metaphor, and a fairly arbitrarily selected one. You might as well ask why English speakers "hit the nail on the head", as opposed to (doing anything else properly), when they get something right. 勘 has meanings like 'intuition' and 定 like 'determine', so (my guess!) the metaphor is of putting all the numbers (receipts?) into a bowl, swirling them around and pulling out a result that looks right.

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