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親も辞書を買ってやったかいがあるってもんだよ

The context is that speaker (a child) is trying to find the meaning of a word and asks her friend if she can borrow a dictionary. The friend ridicules her. She brushes aside the insults, saying that "dictionary owners know complicated things" followed by the above sentence.

My previous attempt to translate this sentence was a disaster, so I'm going to try again. Please help me to understand my errors.

買ってやった is "bought for me"

verbかいがある is "There is value in doing verb"

I think って must be a short hand for と and I'm going to guess that there's an implicit おもう.

ものだ is one that always confuses me. It seems to be context dependent and since I'm struggling with the rest of the sentence I'm not in a position to figure out which one it means.

So here's my new attempt:

I think it would be worthwhile if my parents had bought me a dictionary too.

I don't like my placement of "too". I don't understand what も is doing attached to 親.

Maybe:

My parents also think it would be worthwhile if they bought me a dictionary.

is better. At least も is on the right place for that.

  • 2
    "bought for me" -- So the speaker is the child of the 親 here? Really? – l'électeur Oct 27 '15 at 0:31
  • 1
    you may have to give context... I have a feeling ってもんだ is an elision of と思うのだ (i.e. there is no ~ものだ) – MichaelChirico Oct 27 '15 at 12:01
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    @dainichi Then would you please tell me what it does mean. I've been thinking about this for two days solid and it's driving me insane. – user3856370 Oct 27 '15 at 23:58
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    Getting closer. There's no "thought", もんだ is not short for 思うんだ. And there's no hypothetical situation "would be". They bought the dictionary, and it was worth it. – dainichi Oct 28 '15 at 0:26
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    For the usage of もん(もの), see definition #➊-5-㋑ on デジタル大辞泉: "感動する気持ちを強調して示す。「二人とも大きくなったものだ」「悪いことはできないものだ」" – Chocolate Oct 28 '15 at 4:41
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TL;DR From the given context, I guess the gist is something like:

Dictionary owners know complicated things. That really makes parents happy they bought their kid a dictionary.


The following is just my take on this, and I'm sure there are differing views, so please take it as one of many perspectives.

“親も”

This is a common use of 〜も, where it is not really meant as a specific “also” marker. It is used in place of 〜は as a general topic marker, when simply using 〜は may seem too much like a contrast marker.

  • 花子大きくなった (Hanako has grown taller.)
    This has this risk of being interpreted as a contrast marker. It can sometimes feel like you're implying some other person has not grown taller, while Hanako has.
  • 花子大きくなったね (Hanako, she's grown taller…)
    This can be confusing when you stick to the textbook explanation of the similarity marker 〜も (e.g. 太郎は大きくなったし花子も大きくなった). Sometimes, it's not much more than a simple topic marker. It's often used when stating something as a sentiment rather than a cold fact, in combination with sentence endings like 〜ねえ, 〜なあ, or 〜よ. Here the person is not drawing similarities with anything specific, so you shouldn't bend over backwards trying to insert the notion of an “also/too”.

Examples:

  • 親も大変だね Tough being a parent, huh.
  • おまえも上手になったな You've really improved, haven't you.

“ってもんだ”

This is a colloquial form of 〜というものだ. Adding it to a phrase can have the effect of turning a singular event into a generalized phenomenon.

For example, let's say a teacher is pleased that his pupil has passed an entrance exam:

  • 先生「がんばって教えたかいがあった
    Teacher: (This outcome makes me feel) It was well worth my effort teaching.
  • 先生「がんばって教えたかいがあるというものだ
    Teacher: (These kinds of outcomes make people feel) It was well worth the effort teaching.

Another example:

  • 少し休めば元気になるよ
    You'll get better if you rest a little.
  • 少し休めば元気になるってもんだ
    (It's generally the case that) people get better when they rest a little.
1

I can offer a different parsing and translation of this phrase.

I also think that the full form of this phrase ending should definetely be 〜というものだよ. And I find the explanation for 〜も made by mirka really good. But in my textbook there's a special explanation for 〜というものだ structure.

"〜というものだ" is used to express a wholehearted (心をこめて) opinion.

Short expression for memorizing: それはずうずうしいというものだ。 = What insolence!

Example of usage: 困った時こそ手を差し伸べるのが真の友情というものでしょう。 (my translation: "When someone gives you a hand in time of trouble it is what's called true friendship.")

So, with this in mind let's parse the phrase

[ [ [ 親も辞書を買ってやった ] かい ] がある ] ってもんだよ.

  • 親も辞書を買ってやった = parents (in general, remember 〜も) were buying a dictionary(-ies)
  • かい = I read this as 詮 or 甲斐 (two variants for the same word) meaning "good result; use; avail"
  • 親も辞書を買ってやったかい = a use of that "親も辞書を買ってやった"
  • 親も辞書を買ってやったかいがある = there exists "親も辞書を買ってやったかい"
  • and finally applying 〜というものだ

My final translation:

Dictionary owners know complicated things. After all, the fact that parents were buying dictionaries has gone to their advantage!

That makes much more sense to me than mirka's translation =) After all, I see no word in the original phrase that can correspond to 'happy'.

PS: I'm not an English native speaker, so I may be missing some nuances of using tenses. Maybe "parents have bought dictionaries" would be better.

  • That's very helpful. Thanks. Although your example, 困った時こそ手を差し伸べるのが真の友情というものでしょう, seems to fit rather well with Mirka's explanation of というものだ. Could you tell me what grammar book you are using please? None of mine explain というものだ. – user3856370 Dec 29 '15 at 13:12
  • You can find this book by ISBN 9785787304657, but it's in Russian only... It's a reference book for Japanese grammar based on the JLPT level 2 syllabus. I could probably transalte it and post descriptions for various grammar structures here, one by one, but I don't know if it's OK to post just descriptions without questions on this website =) – Keen Dec 30 '15 at 0:22
  • A kind offer but, I don't think you should do that. Thanks anyway. – user3856370 Dec 30 '15 at 11:28
-2

かい is actually 甲斐 (worth) in this context, so with that in mind read it like this:

親も辞書を買ってやった甲斐(かい)があるってもんだよ

The もんだ is a casual expression for ものだ

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