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I was wondering about the meaning of 「(なら)まだしも」: I can't find it in my grammar books, but I found (here, here and others) that it means "... would be acceptable; ... would be better", followed by something which isn't acceptable/is worse, like 「一度ならまだしもここまで六回その言葉を間違えって書いた」 (from here).

My doubt is: can it, given the right wording, mean the opposite, like 「XならまだしもB」, "X wouldn't be acceptable, but I don't see the issue with B"? My doubt comes from this, from a story I'm having a lot of difficulties understanding (and this is the first time I saw this grammar construction); context: a boy was seen peeing outside school, and the protagonist takes responsability, despite not being guilty, because the search for the culprit was blocking classes and lunch break; his grandmother is speaking with the principal and viceprincipal:

女が人前で尻をだすならまだしも、大の男が見附の十文字で金玉さらして立小便するってえの、いったいどこか都合悪いんでござんしょうかね

I don't really understand the central part, from 「大の男」 to 「てえの」, but I'm guessing 「見附」 means something like "in front across the street" (Weblio, meaning 3); I have no clue about 「十文字」, but I think 「てえの」 is dialectal for 「というの」, so I guess it means something like "an adult men showing his testicles (金玉) and urinating across the street".

I could take 「ならまだしも」 to mean "X is acceptable, but B isn't", so that would mean (I think) that a woman showing her butt in public would be (somehow) acceptable, but a man showing is testicles and urinating isn't; but 「いったいどこか都合悪い」 seems to me to mean "where the hell is the problem?".

So, my general understanding of the sentences is something like "A woman showing her butt in public would be one thing, but where the hell is the problem in a man showing his testicles and urinating across the street?". But this would reverse the meaning of 「ならまだしも」, and while the sentence does make sense in English (meaning-wise) I'm not really sure that what's the character is saying.

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I think you've got the general drift of the sentence right. But I'm hazy on the meaning of "見附の十文字" too. "見附" is a pretty much outdated word that I hardly knew, and it seems it has lots of different meanings. (I'm guessing "十文字" means "crossroads" here? And "見附" "guardhouse" or "right across from/in front of ..."? If someone knows, please tell me.) But that all is of little significance here. Let's get to the meat of the matter.

The implication of the pattern「XならまだしもY」 is a bit more complicated than simply "the speaker thinks X would be acceptable or better than Y, which isn't acceptable/is worse". In fact, I think, to determine what it is exactly that the speaker thinks is "acceptable or better than Y", you must take the referent of X in conjunction with what the rest of the sentence says, or indicates about the speaker's beliefs, instead of just looking at X alone. Consider, for example, the following pair of sentences:

(A) 一度の間違いならまだしも、三度も間違いをして叱られないのはおかしいと思う。

(B) 三度の間違いならまだしも、たった一度の間違いで叱られるのはおかしいと思う。

With (A), the flaw of the "speaker thinks X would be acceptable or better than Y" explanation causes no visible problem: the explanation squares with the speaker's implied belief that one mistake is not as bad as three mistakes, and a one-time offender might be spared a telling-off (but not so a three-timer, they think). Okay, that makes sense. So far so good.

But in (B), if 「XならまだしもY」 entailed that "the speaker thinks X would be acceptable or better than Y", then the speaker's implied belief would be three mistakes are better than one, even though the sentence as a whole suggests nothing of the sort! (The sentence actually says the speaker would be fine with people being scolded for making three mistakes, but not for only one mistake.)

One way to solve this problem I've come up with (which may have flaws of its own) is to supply X with some appropriate element from Y (making adjustments as necessary), like shown below, and take the referent of the resulting expression, not X alone, as what "the speaker thinks would be acceptable or better than Y".

(A') 一度の間違い[をして叱られない(の)]ならまだしも、三度も間違いをして叱られないのはおかしいと思う。

(B') 三度の間違い[で叱られる(の)]ならまだしも、たった一度の間違いで叱られるのはおかしいと思う。

Applying this to the sentence in your question, although it's a bit less straightforward than the examples above, we get this:

女が人前で尻をだす[のが都合が悪いという(の)]ならまだしも、大の男が見附の十文字で金玉さらして立小便するってえの、いったいどこか都合悪いんでござんしょうかね

Thus, what, using 「まだしも」, the grandma says she finds acceptable, or is relatively fine with, is not a woman's baring her rear in public, but actually rather the idea (or the stating of the idea) that a woman's baring her rear in public is problematic/inappropriate.

Or, another possible solution is to attribute to the expression 「XならまだしもY」 no inherent relatively-positive evaluation of X, as with the English expression "X is one thing, but ...", and think of the polarity (negativeness or positiveness) of the evaluation as wholly dependent on the context --「Xならまだしも」 is just a device for providing a comparison through which the Y part is put in perspective.

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  • 「十文字」 as "crossroad would be my guess too, but I didn't find it anywhere with that meaning. Thanks for the answer! – Mauro Apr 13 at 21:35

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