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My question is why is the causative form 言わせる used in this phrase.

I've done some checking, but I haven't found a good answer yet so I thought'd I'd ask here. As a set phrase I know the meaning since it is used in a quite specific context. But I don't get why 言わせる is in there. It doesn't seem to make sense. Is it a 'forcing someone to say' 言わせる, or is it a 'letting me say' 言わせる? Or does it have nothing to do withing saying at all?

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It's hard to give a definitive answer since the etymology of this phrase seems to be fairly uncertain.

Some people believe ブイブイ represents a sound from some external object. Some say it came from the sound of a large car/motorcycle engine, the symbol of freedom and wealth. Some even say ブイブイ is the sound made during a sexual intercourse. If one of these is true, ブイブイ言わせる makes sense simply as "to make a motorcycle/etc sound ブイブイ".

Other people believe this ブイブイ represents something actually said by the person themselves, whatever it may mean. In this case, ブイブイ言わせる should mean "to allow oneself to say ブイブイ". As you already know, Japanese "causative form" is not always forcible, and it can indicate allowance. For example you can say キャンセルさせてください ("please allow me to cancel" rather than "please force me to cancel") and お邪魔させてもらいました ("I received the favor of allowing me to visit").

  • I guess it's not possible to tell which kind of causative it is, since either of them could make sense. – kandyman Oct 4 '17 at 9:49
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ブイブイ言わせる

Though the definition is not so clearly established, it is believed to implies the behaviors mainly by rascals "being puffed out", "making a show of their power" or "behave arrogantly".

There are various understandings as for the origin of this phrase, but I like the next one because it could answer the question by the questioner asking why it has the causative form 言わせる. The origin of it is to idle the engine, and "Buen, Buen" is the sound of idling.

Every time you step on the gas pedal strongly, you let the engine generate "Bueeeen, Bueeeen" sound loudly.

From this original meaning, it has changed gradually until it means now to let his mouth say arrogant words freely and loudly.

  • This is an interesting theory – kandyman Oct 4 '17 at 9:47

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