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寿季「初めて出会った時のこと、覚えてます?」

エレナ「ええ。覚えているわ」

エレナ「寿季が私にぶつかって、読んでいた本を落としてしまったのよね」

寿季「いや、ぶつかったのは別の生徒で、俺は通りがかっただけです」

エレナ「……間違いは誰にでもあるわ」

寿季「今回は惜しいのでセーフということにしておきます

I would translate the bold part sentence literally as "Since this time it is regrettable that your answer is wrong, I would take it as a safe". But I was told by a native speaker that this sentence actually means "Your answer is wrong, but I don't care."

Could you please explain why the sentence means that? I can’t tell it from its literal meaning. I guess it’s because I don’t understand the word セーフ.

And if the sentence implies "but", why is ので used? Shouldn’t it be のに?

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This セーフ is an antonym for アウト, and I believe they are from safe and out as baseball terms. セーフ means "close/questionable but barely acceptable/legal/successful", whereas アウト means "close/questionable but wrong/unacceptable/illegal". They are typically used in the context of the application of rules/laws.

惜しい is not "regrettable" but "close (but wrong)" here. This is typically used in the context of quiz.

So 今回は惜しいのでセーフということにしておく means "It's wrong but close enough, so this time, I will {ignore this / overlook it / consider it not a mistake}".

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  • I see all the answers so far mention the meaning of 惜しい, and I think the "close" explanation is easy to understand. What seems a bit unclear is why "regrettable" is excluded. 『デジタル大辞泉』 does give: 「もう少しのところで実現されずに終わって心残りである。残念だ。」 Could you please explain why the implications of 残念/regrettable/unfortunate don't work here?
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 14 at 1:25
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    @EddieKal At least in this context, 惜しい is used rather positively, like "close enough" or "almost there". IMO whether there's a regrettable feeling purely depends on the context.
    – naruto
    Jan 14 at 2:56
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    For example, とても惜しい means not "very unfortunate" but "very close". 惜しかった in 失敗したけど惜しかったから次回は成功するだろう is clearly positive, too.
    – naruto
    Jan 14 at 3:38
  • Thank you. Now it's clear!
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 14 at 7:18
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「今回は惜しい」 means "This time you are so close (to the right answer)". 「惜しい」 has several different meanings, and in the sentence it means "so close", not "regrettable". For example:「負けたけど、惜しかった。(=We lost, but we were so close (to winning)).」

「セーフ」 is a Japanese-English word from "Safe" in baseball. It has a broad meaning depending on the context, such as "Safe/good/OK/right/appropriate". 「アウト」 is the opposite word of 「セーフ」. It means "Out/bad/NG/wrong/inappropriate" or other similar words.

If I say「今回は惜しいのでセーフということにしておきます。」 in English, I will say "Since this time your answer is so close, I would treat it as the right one."

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    I think the "close" explanation is easy to understand. What seems a bit unclear is why "regrettable" is excluded. 『デジタル大辞泉』 does give: 「もう少しのところで実現されずに終わって心残りである。残念だ。」 Could you please explain why the implications of 残念/regrettable/unfortunate don't work here?
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 14 at 1:26
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This question resembles recursion, because your interpretation is 惜しい.

I would translate the bold part sentence literally as "Since this time it is regrettable that your answer is wrong, I would take it as a safe".

Yes, your word-to-word literal translation per se, is not wrong. I'll elaborate on the "regrettable" and "safe" later.

I can’t tell it from its literal meaning. I guess it’s because I don’t understand the word セーフ.

I disagree. I think the primary reason is, because you don't understand the nuance of 惜しい.

And if the sentence implies "but", why is ので used? Shouldn’t it be のに?

Not necessarily:

寿季's mindset: You're wrong, but it was almost correct. ので (Therefore) I will give you a free pass this time.

Your mindset: You were almost correct, but you're wrong. のに (But) I will give you a free pass this time.

のに is not the best choice here, but I tried to stick to your choice of words.

I guess it’s because I don’t understand the word セーフ.

Let's use baseball as an example here. If the batter makes it to the base before getting tagged, the batter is safe. If too late, out.

If you're from a cricket region, replace safe with in and out remains out. Again the batsman must make it across the line before the ball hits the wickets.

The umpire (寿季) is saying, "well, you were technically out, but it was close enough, therefore I will consider this safe/in".

Now let's dig into 惜しい. Practically, we use the word to express "that was close". If someone answers almost correctly, you can just say "惜しい" and they'll understand that the answer was not too far off.

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    I think the "close" explanation is easy to understand. What seems a bit unclear is why "regrettable" is excluded. 『デジタル大辞泉』 does give: 「もう少しのところで実現されずに終わって心残りである。残念だ。」 Could you please explain why the implications of 残念/regrettable/unfortunate don't work here?
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 14 at 1:26

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