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I'm trying to learn more about idioms and expressions, and I came across this (which is apparently said when making a [pinky] promise):

指切拳万{ゆびきりげんまん}、嘘ついたら針千本{はりせんぼん}呑ます

Casting the first part aside, which is technically already a 四字熟語 for pinky promise; the second part of "針千本呑ます" has gotten me confused. Looking up the definition of the phrase on Weblio returns "swallow a thousand needles" for that section, however when I searched Jisho for "針千本" specifically, the word was defined as "porcupinefish".

I understand that 呑む signifies an action of precisely drinking or swallowing, in which case the needles would make more sense; but I can't see how the verb 呑む can't be used in this sense in a somewhat symbolic manner — not exactly having to "drink" the creature.

Which definition is the phrase exactly pointing towards? And more importantly, is there a reason behind it? Or is it just an unexpected coincidence? Although neither ingesting needles nor eating porcupinefish would be an enjoyable experience.

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In this sentence,針千本 means thousands needls. Do you hear how japanese pronounce this sentence? There is a subtle space between 針 and 千本.If 針千本 means porcupinefish, the space should not exist.

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    Do you have some evidence to back up your answer? I am leaning towards the needles definition, but I can't find any concrete reasons. In addition, at a faster conversational pace, I really can't tell if there is a space there (or between anything else!) except for punctuation and conjugation endings. – Jerrybibo Apr 26 '18 at 4:29
  • This phrase is usualy used with singing ,and there is a space between 針 and 千本. I'm japanese and I've never heard that 針千本 is porcupinefish in this sentence.And addition, most of japanese people use 針千本 in katakana to refer to porcupinefish.This phrase is originaly used in 遊郭 to make pledge for eternal love for guests.I heard thousand needls is the thousand Sewing Needles. – Koreyuki Apr 26 '18 at 4:46
  • I google it in japanese.Few people say it's porcupinefish, and there is no concrete evidence if thousand needles refer to concrete needls or porcupinefish.I'm sorry... – Koreyuki Apr 26 '18 at 4:53

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