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In a story I am reading I came across the line:

「心までは砕けていないので、今は勘弁してください」

The context is that a waitress gets injured and a waiter (the main character) discovers this, gives her some ice, then answers the call of a customer who is in need. This line is what he says to the customer after she says (essentially) "What happened to the waitress?". The customer is surprised that not her original waitress, but a different person (a waiter) came for her.

Literally, this seems to mean "(her) heart is not broken, so please give (her) a break now". However, this doesn't seem to fit the context at all. Maybe the subject is actually the main character?

You can see the context here if necessary. The line is about 2/3rds of the way down.

Maybe the expression is being used in some ironic/sarcastic sense?

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Having read the whole page, I must say that the line in question fits the context perfectly. I am trying hard (and failing) to understand why you do not think so at all.

「心{こころ}までは砕{くだ}けていないので、今{いま}は勘弁{かんべん}してください」

「心」 refers to that of the waitress, not of the speaker. As the speaker (the waiter) utters this line, the waitress is surely physically injured but her heart is not broken by the waiter's judgement, which is expressed by 「までは」. 

Now, we need to treat and appreciate this line as a line in a novel. It would be most unlikely that a real-life waiter would say this to a customer. The line almost has a surreal quality to it. The customer is even unaware, at this point, of the waitress's physical injury, let alone her mental state. That is why the customer says 「あれ?玲は?」 upon seeing the waiter approaching her and follows it with 「何があったのよ」 after hearing the line in question from the waiter. The customer has no idea what has happened in the kitchen.

Thus, my take on the line would be something like:

"(Though somewhat injured), her heart has not been broken, so please excuse her for not being able to attend you."

It seems "Please don't worry." is implied here.

As you stated, I also feel an amount of sarcasm used in the line, but personally, I am seeing more of the surreal quality as a line in fiction than anything else.

  • Thanks very much for your enlightening point of view. I never had even thought of applying a 'surreal' feeling to this. I think my disconnect is what "heart" has to do with anything. Is the insinuation that Rei's (the hurt waitress) heart is not broken, even though Jun (the MC) left her in pain? – Locksleyu Feb 4 '17 at 5:52
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At first glance the line looked to me like a non sequitur too. It took me a little brainwork before (I think) I could figure it out, but here's my two-cent answer: To make sense of it, you have to read "心までは砕けていないので..." for something like '軽い怪我を負ってしまったので...("she hurt herself a bit, so...")' or 'ちょっとした災難に見舞われまして...("she's in a bit of a trouble, so...")'.

The reason why this line can be baffling for some of us is that it's rhetorical and elliptical. It works by implying a "lesser-degree" positive (i.e. that she is mildly hurt or otherwise in none-too-serious distress) by the negation of a "extreme-degree" statement (i.e. "it's not that she got her heart broken or anything that bad").

There's also that you rarely if ever hear this kind of smart-alecky wisecracks from the mouths of real Japanese people (at least not those around me!). They belong mostly in fiction, and you don't find them thriving even there. (めくる may be more like us. She seems none the wiser for his retort, though I think the "何があったのよ" could be interpreted as asking "What exactly happened?" knowing fully what he meant.)

As for why he went for the particular phrase "心までは砕けていない", I don't think there's any particular reason we should be aware of. As far as I can tell there isn't anything that makes it a must or even especially appropriate. It was probably just his idiosyncratic choice for the negated extreme-degree statement. (He could as well have said something else, like, er - I don't know. You know why. )

  • Wow, this is an amazingly well written answer, thank you very much! Sorry to go off-topic but I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on another confusing line in the same work: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/43066/… – Locksleyu Feb 5 '17 at 6:18
  • I'll try but don't hold your breath. – goldbrick Feb 5 '17 at 17:14

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