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Context: A group of people is talking about their favorite home-made food. Someone comes out and says this:

食べてる時間って暇じゃない?

After that everyone looks very surprised by the question. We know this person is not used to eating at home, eats only meals from the コンビニ and has been neglected by their family. I have an idea that it might mean something along the lines of "Do you guys have time to eat?" or "Isn't everyone busy (at your houses) at the time of lunch" or even "You guys eat at home?". But I'm probably wrong and a bit confused.

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  • What causes your confusion?
    – Nameless
    Jan 19 at 19:47
  • @Nameless The fact that if I translate it as literally as possible it says "Time to eat you don't have free time"? Which for me makes no sense. Any idea of what the best way to translate it would be and if 暇じゃない might mean something different?
    – leosan
    Jan 19 at 19:55

1 Answer 1

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食べてる時間って暇じゃない?

Let's take this utterance apart. This って functions like a topic marker. See this discussion

Difference between って and は as topic marker

It's put in the form of a question, so 「じゃない?」 means "isn't it?" And the statement that the じゃない? seeks confirmation of is 「食べてる時間って暇」 ≈ 「食べてる時間は暇」: "the time when you eat is free" or "[someone is] free during the time of eating"

So put together, this utterance means "You are free when you eat, isn't it?" The implication is: when you eat, it's your free time, and you can watch TV, talk to your friend on the phone, relax, daydream, listen to the music, etc. I am using a generic "you" here. The speaker may intend this as a question to all the listeners, or more likely, saying this as a general observation.

Note: 暇 in Japanese can also imply being bored and personally I think the line between "bored" and "free" is blurry. That's why when you want to talk to your boss during work, you should never ask if they are 暇. That would imply you think they are bored and have nothing important to do.

暇だ! = I'm bored!

休みだから暇だよ = I'm bored because it's a day off.

With that in mind, also per @aguijonazo's comment, this could also be a comment about how the time spent eating seems boring or wasteful.

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  • This makes it more clear and I was in fact starting to think that maybe that じゃない there wasn't actually turning 暇 into a negative, which you just confirmed. Would it be possible to translate it as: "The fact that you are talking about your time of eating means you have free time, right?" Because perhaps the って there could be working as a quotation marker as well, referring to what was just being spoken by everyone else?
    – leosan
    Jan 19 at 20:39
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    @leosan In general, to say "The fact that you are talking about your time of eating means you have free time, right?" you need a structure like ということ. That doesn't seem like a possible interpretation of this utterance. I understand where you are coming from. This line does seem out of place in the context you describe. Again, it would be helpful if you could point us to the work (title/series/page number etc.) which got this line from.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 19 at 20:48
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    The implication I get is that eating is boring or the time for eating is wasteful.
    – aguijonazo
    Jan 19 at 23:23
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    I read this more where the って is a bit more of a break -- more like という than just は. Derivationally, this is from とて (quotative と + conjunctive て) or from といって (quotative と + verb いう in the conjunctive いって conjugation). More at the Kotobank entry. Jan 20 at 0:25
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    It does make a bit more sense that it means boring considering the full context of the story. I appreciate your help!
    – leosan
    Jan 20 at 2:10

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