So I found a joke that goes like this:

私の家はそりゃもう狭かったのよ。どれくらい狭かったかって? 横に歯磨きができないのよ。

Now, if translated correctly, it should be saying:

My house is like already very narrow. How narrow? From the sides you can't brush your teeth.

Is the joke just lame, did I translate it incorrectly, or is there a double meaning that I am not seeing?

  • 1
    This seems less like a joke and more like a statement on how narrow his house is. Which seems to be (give or take) about a metre. It seems more like an exaggeration of his predicament. Nov 5, 2015 at 5:58
  • 6
    It would be funny if it wasn't so true.
    – macraf
    Nov 5, 2015 at 6:15
  • 2
    横に歯磨きができない、というたとえは、日本語ではあまり言わないので、少し分かりにくいです。猫の額ほど狭い、という表現なら、よく使います。 Nov 5, 2015 at 10:20
  • 1
    @YasashiiEirian Then I would hit my head on the other wall. Or get really dizzy in the process. I solve the problem by brushing in the Kitchen hallway. Nov 6, 2015 at 0:02
  • 2
    i guess I'm the only one who's laughing. This is more of a piece of conversation. To not be able to brush my teeth horizontally. My condo in Tokyo was almost like that. hahaha.
    – Kentaro
    Nov 6, 2015 at 1:30

1 Answer 1


To bring this to a finality, I will answer my own question.

横に歯磨き refers to brushing teeth sideways, and the joke, which is more of a comical overstatement, is referring to a living space that is so crammed that he does not have space to brush his teeth. So while there are cramped spaces in larger cities in Tokyo, it is not necessary a pun or a particular reference.

  • You green-checked yourself??? Aug 28, 2021 at 5:27

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