In a story I am reading, a woman (who I assume is in her 20-30s) uses the expression:


A simple dictionary lookup shows this means something like:


While this fits the context, I am surprised why a younger person would be using this expression, which seems to have an old/literary connotation.

Would any modern young person actually use this expression? If so, would it sound like they are trying to sound "cool" or "intellectual"?

1 Answer 1


You can expect to hear 「なきにしもあらず」 from any junior high schooler and sometimes even from 5th and 6th graders, seriously. It means exactly what you stated above -- "That is totally possible."

Common set phrases sometimes come in a literary and/or older form like this one. Using those once in a while when necessary is never the same thing as trying to sound cool or intellectual. You just have no choice but to use them, really. You would only end up sounding funny if you "translated" those phrases into a more "modern" form.

It is not like uttering a long sentence in classical Japanese, which would rarely, if ever, happen in the real world.

Other common older/literary expressions include:

・「あるまじき + Noun」 ("unworthy", "unbecoming", etc.)

・「言わずもがな」 ("obvious", "should be left unsaid", etc.)

・「AありきのB」 ("B based on A")

・「いと~~なり」 ("[Something is] very ~~")

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