In *A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese:

彼はよく詐欺に引っかかる。

is translated as:

He is often caught committing fraud.

When reading that sentence I understood it as:

He often falls for frauds (i.e: he is often the victim, not the perpetrator, of frauds).

Are both translations possible?

In 大辞林 they show this definition:

だまされて仕組まれたとおりに動かされる。計略にはまる。

And even give this example sentence:

詐欺に引っかかる。

Which explains the first thing I thought of when reading the sentence.
However, they also give another possible definition:

やっかいな事柄や人物とかかわりあいをもつ。

Could this definition be used in this case to interpret the sentence like A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese did?

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Although 引っかかる can have the meaning "get mixed up in" or "be involved in" among other meanings (like these), I suspect that this translation might be erroneous. First of all, a search in the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (cross-referenced with 詐欺) reveals only results relating to the meaning of "falling for scams" rather than "committing scams" and I think that is what most people would understand by the term as it appears in your example. Also, if you examine the definitions listed at the kotobank link above, they all convey a sense of the subject being imposed upon by some kind of undesirable circumstance which is often beyond their control. This places the emphasis of what is 'bad' beyond the subject and does not seem to fit with your example in which the subject is actively engaged the 'bad' thing.

Secondly, it could easily be an error caused by the English definition "get caught" which is ambiguous and requires context. For example, it could mean "get caught (doing something illicit)" or "get caught (out by a fraudster)". Perhaps someone was not careful enough in their translation. They saw a definition of 引っかかる as "get caught" and assumed erroneously that it was the former meaning rather the latter.

Furthermore, if you wanted to use 引っかかる in the sense of being caught doing something illicit, I think it would make more sense to make it more explicit by including who is catching them out - perhaps by using 警察に引っかかる and maybe a phrase like 詐欺で to clarify that the subject is being caught out by the police rather being caught out by the scam. But in my opinion that is beside the point as I believe the most likely explanation is that the translation is erroneous.

If, however, you are asking whether it is ever possible to use 引っかかる in such a way, then my answer may not apply.

  • I thought it might be, but that book has been around for a while and is used widely. I have already spotted some awkward translations in it but this would be a complete mistranslation meaning-wise. If that was the case wouldn't there at least be an erratum somewhere? – SLM Dec 3 at 7:27
  • @SLM Judging by the downvotes, people clearly disagree with me. Is your question that 引っかかる can ever be used in that sense? Or are you specifically talking about its use with 詐欺 as in your example, which is what I assumed? – kandyman Dec 3 at 8:45
  • 2
    私も、"He is often caught committing fraud"は、辞書側の間違い・誤訳だと思います。「彼はよく詐欺に引っかかる」は、「よく詐欺に騙されてしまう」"He often falls for frauds (i.e: he is often the victim of frauds)" って意味でしかありえないと思います。「よく詐欺でサツに捕まる・引っ張られる」って解釈されることはないと思います。ダウンボートされてる理由は、ちょっとわかりません・・・。 – Chocolate Dec 3 at 9:16
  • I think you are both right, to be honest it was my first impression as well but I am a bit disappointed that this book has some major mistakes like this one. I was actually hoping that I might be wrong. Now I will have to be even more critical of the translations provided in the book. – SLM Dec 3 at 9:47
  • @SLM what book is it? – kandyman Dec 3 at 10:12

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