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In order to improve my Japanese, I have decided to attempt translating short stories/articles etc. There's one particular line in a story that's giving me a bit of difficulty with regards to parsing;

部屋の外にも結構エクソの気配があるが……大半が死に損ないだなこりゃ。

With my best attempts I arrived at the following translation;

There are considerable signs of Exos outside the room too…but most of them(?) have escaped death.

Whilst the "escaping death" part makes sense in the context (context here is an "エクソ" waking up in a strange hospital room after a battle and saying the above sentence whilst looking around the unfamiliar room) I don't understand the need for the conjunction (が) the way I interpreted the sentence in my head.

I mean, to me if the sentence was actually "There are considerable signs of Exos outside the room too… most of them have escaped death." With no が/but it would make sense to me.

But I know there something I'm misunderstanding which is leading me to confuse myself, if anyone can help explain the correct way to parse this I would be grateful.

  • Good question, but could you explain a bit more about エクソ? Is that a kind of zombie or monster? And the speaker is an エクソ himself? – naruto Jul 13 '17 at 4:53
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    エクソ is an artificial race in the story, and the speaker is indeed an エクソ himself. A little more context - the エクソ were at war with the human race, the humans won in the end. The speaker betrayed his エクソ leader with a few of his fellow comrades but failed when his leader cut them all down. So now he wakes up in this hospital room because another エクソ saved him and his friends despite their betrayal. – TafaiNa Jul 13 '17 at 5:02
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You have parsed this sentence perfectly; that が after ある is "but". What actually confused you is the connotation of the noun 死に損ない.

As an auxiliary verb, masu-stem + 損なう means "to fail to ~". For example "電車に乗り損なう" means "to fail to get on the train". Literally, 死に損ない is closer to "someone who failed to die" rather than "someone who escaped death" or "survivor" in the positive sense. In other words, 死に損ない refers to a useless person who should've died long before, or someone who has lived too long. Naturally, it's a derogatory term like "dotard".

In this context, 大半が死に損ないだ means "most of them are already half-dead" (presumably due to the battle). 結構エクソの気配がある is a bad thing to him, but 大半が死にぞこないだ seems to be good news to him — since perhaps he's trying to escape from the room. That's why the two clauses are connected using the が.

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    Ah I see, I interpreted the implications of 死に損ない quite differently to how it actually should be interpreted. This makes perfect sense to me now, thank you! – TafaiNa Jul 13 '17 at 6:13
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    「死に損ない」には質問者も騙されたように「to escape death」ような説明の辞書がある中、「死に損ない」の「損なう」に着目しての解説は見事です。 – mackygoo Jul 13 '17 at 6:57

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