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I often see phrases of the form Xがよい (where X is a noun) e.g. 頭がよい, 仲がよい etc. In these examples the characteristic being described is desirable (clever, good relationship etc) so よい seems sensible.

I came across 肉付きがよい recently. Perhaps I misunderstand the term but I assume it means fat/chubby; a characteristic which in many (most?) cultures is not seen as desirable.

So my question is, is Xがよい neutral, i.e can it be used for non-desirable characteristics too? Or perhaps, when the phrase was first used, being fat was as sign of status and richness and so was seen as a desirable characteristic.

Are there other examples of Xがよい like this?

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    can it be used for non-desirable characteristics -- 「虫がいい」とか
    – chocolate
    Dec 24, 2022 at 14:12

2 Answers 2

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I think I would characterize「肉付きがよい」as more along the lines of "stout" or "well-fed". That is, it is generally talking about being overweight a bit, but not in a particularly derogatory way, but more in a "well off"/"not lacking nourishment" sort of sense.

I think it's fairly similar to the many expressions we have in English that might phrase being overweight in a somewhat nice-sounding way to be more polite or kind about it ("big boned", "plump", "jolly", "stout", etc).

It's also worth noting, though, that よい/いい does not always mean "good" in a value-judgement sort of way ("good" vs "bad"), but can often just mean "a good amount"/"sufficient"/"substantial"/etc. So in this sense you can also interpret「肉付きがよい」to just mean something like "a substantial amount of meat on (their) bones", etc, too.

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肉付きが良い could be used as a euphemism for fat, but by itself does not have negative implications. (Possibly similar to voluptuous?)

Another example that could be used in a sarcastic way is 育ちが良い, to make fun of someone being ignorant of things the commons should know. Similarly, 行儀が良い can mean negatively too good mannered. Again, these are about how they are used, and the words themselves just mean well-bred/good-mannered.

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