Questions tagged [idioms]

慣用句・ことわざ. Phrases with fixed words used as a single unit, typically with a meaning beyond what is obvious from its constituent parts.

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37
votes
2answers
8k views

Where does “もしもし” (moshimoshi) for answering the telephone come from?

Does the term "もしもし" (moshimoshi) predate the telephone? Does it have any use besides answering the phone? Where does it come from, is it just a reduplication of "もし" (moshi) "if", and if so how does ...
30
votes
7answers
5k views

How would one convey “get over it” in Japanese?

As a foreigner in Japan, one has to get used to the fact that some Japanese will compliment you on things that are too mundane to really deserve mention. Like the fact that you can use chopsticks, eat ...
22
votes
3answers
1k views

What's bugging the Japanese language?

In my JLPT workbook, it has a section which gives a list of idioms that use [虫]{むし}. 仕事{しごと}の虫 (worker bee) 点取{てんとり}虫 (derogatory term for a student who tries too hard) 虫がいい (selfish) ...
18
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2answers
4k views

Is アリ in そんなのアリかよ⁉︎ some type of slang?

This is a line from a sports manga (soccer), after a rather unusual shoot, but I can't seem to make sense of it: そんなのアリかよ!? I have no idea what the "ari" in here refers to? Is this some slang? Some ...
17
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1answer
2k views

Why “社会の窓” (shakai no mado)?

A few years ago I was told by a Japanese friend "社会の窓" (shakai no mado). It was explained after some giggling that this is what is said to a man who has inadvertently left his fly open, and that it ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Japanese idiom equivalent to “take with a grain of salt”

Is there a Japanese idiom equivalent to "take with a grain of salt"? In other words, an idiom which means "don't accept this information as completely true or the complete truth".
16
votes
4answers
688 views

“Unsolvable problem”

What is the correct construction of "unsolvable problem"? Is it "解{と}けられない問題{もんだい}"?(Question 1) Plain(intransitive): 解{と}ける "To be solved". Potential form(of ...
15
votes
1answer
952 views

Comparing 気にする vs. 気になる

Consider this example sentence from SPACEALC: あなたがどうしているか気になっていた。  "I was concerned about how you were." What is the difference when 気にする is used instead? I.e., あなたがどうしているか気にしていた。 ~なる seems ...
14
votes
2answers
550 views

What is the meaning and root of 意味くじピーマン?

Recently a friend of mine threw the term 意味くじピーマン (imi kuji pi-man) into a story she was telling, and it totally threw me off. At first I thought, because I wasn't sure how to parse the くじ part, it ...
14
votes
1answer
372 views

Can I always use 色々な or do I have to use 色々の sometimes?

On the web I can find many occurrences of both 色々な and 色々の. 色々な seems to be used more often though. Can I always use 色々な and get away with it, or is 色々の the only choice in some particular cases? If ...
13
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3answers
12k views

When/why did 電話する replace 電話をかける?

In some older learning material I came across, they use 「電話をかける」 for "to make a telephone call". When/why did this come to be replaced by 「電話する」 in popular usage?
13
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2answers
2k views

Which part of speech is the 「ぞ」 in 「神のみぞ知るセカイ」?

「神{かみ}のみぞ知{し}るセカイ」 is the title of a manga/anime series but I'm not asking about the anime. I'm just curious about the 「ぞ」 part in the title. I know there is a ぞ particle that is similar to よ, such ...
12
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4answers
438 views

Etymology of 右に出る

What is the etymology of 右に出る, as in 「右に出る者はいない」? What on earth makes the right superior to the left? Relatedly, is 左に出る ever used to mean "inferior to"?
12
votes
5answers
9k views

How is 空気を読む translated into English?

I've often seen 'read the air' (literal translation) or 'read between the lines' but is there a better rendition of this concept in English? Or does it just not exist?
12
votes
1answer
6k views

What does ただいま actually mean?

I was wondering what the literal translation really means. I've seen it translated as I'm home but I've also seen it in a few situations where the person wasn't arriving home.
11
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3answers
2k views

Japanese idioms of improbability

I'm sure most (English speakers) have heard terms like: when pigs fly or when hell freezes over or when the Cubs win the World Series [obsolete] (U.S. only) Am wondering if there is ...
11
votes
2answers
852 views

Japanese equivalent of the phrase “wrapped around your finger”?

The English phrase "wrapped around your finger" usually means that a male is so fond of a girl that she can get him to do almost anything she wants, or to give her whatever she wants. In my case, it ...
11
votes
2answers
6k views

Ways to end a phone conversation

Despite its being one of the most basic element of daily-life Japanese, I often find myself looking for a proper way to end certain phone conversations. Of course, I know the standard: [それでは]失礼します, ...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

Meaning and usage of ~としたことが

I came across the expression ~としたことが, for example: 私としたことが I'm trying to figure out the meaning and usage of this phrase, but I can't find any English resources that explain it. What does this ...
11
votes
1answer
196 views

What is the image/feeling/concept behind 面白半分に◯◯する?

In a phrase like: 面白{おもしろ}半分に見る or 面白半分に言う What is the concept behind the 半分 and why is it connected with the verb using に? Is it like "all things have two parts/aspects": serious (真剣半分?) and ...
11
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2answers
1k views

Saying 「おかわり」 when requesting second helping: what is being exchanged?

I am aware that the phrase 「おかわり」 that is used when asking for second helping (of meals especially) is an idiomatic expression, so its usage is understood as it is. But, I'm curious about the origin ...
10
votes
1answer
3k views

Translation of 「そんなことない」

What is a correct translation for 「そんなことない」 and when can it be used? I understand the "this is wrong"/"this is not correct" general sense but is this considered either as harsh or a gentle way of ...
10
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1answer
2k views

Making sense out of Japanese proverbs

I was never able to make any sense out of the following Japanese proverbs or idiomatic expressions: 豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死んでしまえ。 'Hit your head against a corner of a cake of tofu, and die.' ...の爪の垢を煎じて飲む。 '...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

What does 今日という日 mean?

I'm trying to translate a song lyric that says 今日という日は 過去 前例のない 僕たちの誓い日和だよ And I get a dictionary result at Jisho for 今日という日 as something like every day; all day but that doesn't make any sense ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Japanese idiom equivalent to “that ship has sailed”

What is the closest expression in Japanese that conveys a similar meaning to the English idiom "that ship has sailed", referring to an "missed opportunity" and "it's too late (to do anything about it)"...
9
votes
2answers
406 views

What is the etymology of 赤の他人?

彼は赤の他人だよ — He's a total stranger to me How did "red stranger" come to mean "total stranger" in Japanese? Is there anything that makes this expression make sense more than "That's just what it means"?
9
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there a Japanese phrase equivalent to the English phrase: “Guilty Pleasure”?

I am at a loss of words to describing to my host family why I sometimes listen to "bad" or embarrassing music. Is there a japanese phrase that can help me tell them it's a "guilty pleasure" of mine?
9
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2answers
501 views

Do 気が付く{つく} and 気[付く]{づく} have the same meaning?

If they both mean the same, is が optional?
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば?

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば? How would you translate this?
8
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the etymology of the phrase 隴を得て蜀を望む?

I just came across this phrase, which is listed in the dictionary as: never being satisfied with what one gets, and always wanting more; giving someone an inch and having them take a mile; taking ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

Meaning of ~と言われればそれまでだが、…

I have found this sentence: 好みの問題と言われればそれまでだが、私はこの店の内装はなんとなく好きになれない。 To my poor understanding it sounds similar to: 好みの問題と言われても、私はこの店の内装はなんとなく好きになれない。 If it is completely different and I ...
8
votes
1answer
11k views

Taking Class, Course, Lecture - Which verb is fit?

I would like to know how we say taking class or course or lecture in japanese. I have heard about 「クラスを受ける」 and 「クラスを取る」. Are there significant difference? And Is there any other verb we can use ...
8
votes
3answers
249 views

Equivalent of 【一人で】for a multi-person group unit

I am trying to translate the English expression "left to their own devices"/"left to themselves"/"in a vacuum" into Japanese, and the best I could come up with would be something involving 「ひとりで」, but ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the meaning of お気の毒に and how is it used?

Although the there are several definitions in the dictionary: my condolences that's too bad my sympathies What does お気の毒に literally mean? I'm guessing that it might have something to do with "...
8
votes
1answer
350 views

Does 換骨奪胎 have negative connotation?

In the book ロボット学論集 by 瀬名 秀明, I saw this sentence (not exact since I'm solely depending on my memory) 2004 年公開の映画 "I, Robot" は,Isaac Asimov の同名の小説を換骨奪胎した別物である. I looked at several online ...
8
votes
1answer
327 views

How did the ざ in 様{ざま}みろ get the dakuten?

I am under impression that the first syllable in a word gets a dakuten when it is transformed into voiced form under the effect of rendaku. But in the idiomatic expression 様みろ {ざまみろ}, the kanji 様 ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

How to understand 節がある?

According to weblio, 節{ふし}がある is defined as follow: 着眼点としてある。そのようにも思われる。「思い当たるふしがある」や、「県警は当初、事件を隠蔽しようとしていたふしがある」などのように用いられる。 "Interesting" point. Considered to be like this. Used like 「...
8
votes
1answer
230 views

What is ~やまさりけん and what part of sentence is it used as?

In the scenes of fight in old stories, I sometimes encountered a phrase ~やまさりけん usually in the compound form: 力やまさりけん 腕やまさりけん What is the exact meaning of the phrase and what part of the ...
8
votes
1answer
259 views

Is there a figurative use to 春風?

I often hear 春風【はるかぜ】(or, much less often, 春風【しゅんぷう】) used to describe the characteristically windy weather of early Spring. I was also certain I had heard it used on occasions as a figurative ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

“The eye (crust ?) laughs at the booger”?

What does this phrase mean? 目{め}くそ鼻{くそ}くそを笑{わら}うだよね。 Is it some sort of idiom? Does it have a parallel in English?
7
votes
3answers
357 views

Meaning of 足のつかない?

I wasn't able to find any matches through dictionaries for 足のつかない or 足がつかない. Here is the sentence: 消えても足のつかない人間をさらっては上の集団に引き渡すらしい The context is thugs kidnapping people for money. I don't ...
7
votes
3answers
211 views

鶴の一声 — Origin and context?

So, I understand what the idiom actually means, roughly -- "the final word," "the word from on high." But where does it come from? Is there a story or a history that gives it context?
7
votes
1answer
209 views

Understanding the も in 見るも

その日。彼女のもとに、招かれざる客が現れた。 見るも巨大な鉄の塊。長い手足の歪な人型。 そんな異形共が、彼女の領域を侵したのである。 What would be the function of the bold も?
7
votes
1answer
1k views

“Never say never”

Since there is apparently no literal translation for "never", how would you translate this idiom ? What periphrasis would you use to express the same meaning ?
7
votes
1answer
155 views

Is 立つ in 顔が立つ is always imperfective? If so why?

I understand that the word 立つ has various meanings, but basically can be used to describe a state (for inanimate and animate objects) as well as a process (for animate objects). To describe a state ...
7
votes
1answer
236 views

What is the term for the English idiom of “with high stakes”?

In English there is the idiomatic expression "with high stakes." There is also the adjective high-stakes, which means involving serious risks if there is no success. Is there a similar idiom in ...
7
votes
1answer
171 views

Is あわやと思った an idiom? What is the meaning of あわや?

I've come across this sentence あわやと思ったその時 and I have looked around without success for a translation for あわや. Tangorin simply says it's an adverb meaning 'almost on the verge of happening', but ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

“over in the blink of an eye”?

What is the idiom "in the blink of an eye" in Japanese? I want to use it to say that two years will be over in the blink of an eye or "before you even notice". (For a detailed discussion and ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

How to say “all in all”

I have been many times blocked in a conversation because I have no way to translate "all in all" in those general contexts: All in all it takes 15 minutes to get there All in all this movie was quite ...
6
votes
1answer
705 views

How to describe the inside of one's mind?

On one page in my book, I came across 3 different phrases for, what seems to me, subtly different ways of saying the same thing. The first was: 頭の隅に Then: 脳裏に The information I was able to find ...