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Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

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Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby Tatsu no Ou-sama » Wed 09.09.2009 12:58 am

So over the course of my studies I've come across and internalized a lot of Japanese proverbs but I was wondering if they tend to be used in regular conversation. For example, in English, it's fairly common to hear someone say something like "well isn't that the pot calling the kettle black" or "like father like son" when the situation calls for it. So, is it the same in Japanese? Would one hear people say things like "目糞鼻糞を笑う”,”蛙の子は蛙” or ”猫に小判”?

Here's an example of what I mean:

佐藤さん:昨日、十万円もかかったかばんを買いましたが、家に帰ったとたんに破れてしまいました。
田中さん:猫に小判ですね。

I may have gotten the context of that phrase wrong and I'm sure I made a grammatical error somewhere in there, but I hope I was able to clearly express the general gist of what I'm trying to get at (過ちを見つけたら遠慮しないで直してくださいませんでしょうか?)

Oh and I just remembered I would like to know about the status of those 4 kanji idioms in everyday speech too (I don't quite remember the proper term for them). For example, would one normally say "一石二鳥" in the same way an English speaker would say "it'll be like killing two birds with one stone"? (And on a slightly unrelated note I find it quite interesting that both languages have the exact same expression. Did English borrow it from Japanese or vice versa or perhaps from a third party?)


Thanks for reading through this long post and thanks in advance to anyone who replies!
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby chikara » Wed 09.09.2009 1:11 am

According to Wikipedia, for what it is worth, the "Japanese love proverbs and use them frequently in their everyday life". Japanese Proverbs
Don't complain to me that people kick you when you're down. It's your own fault for lying there
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby NileCat » Wed 09.09.2009 2:29 am

I think it's a good question because I have the same question with Englsh. :)

Generally speaking, yes, it's fairly common to hear someone say something like "目糞鼻糞を笑う" or "蛙の子は蛙" or "猫に小判".
If anything, some might think those proverbs sound a little bit trite. For instance, I think teenagers rarely use them but grandmas would like them a lot. But I suppose this is as same as in English, isn't it?
I personally, no matter if it's popular or not among your generation, recommend you to use them. Nobody wouldn't think it silly. On the contrary, it would show your vast knowledge about Japanese and I'm quite sure that they will be impressed. Try more tough ones, too!

佐藤さん:昨日、十万円もかかったかばんを買いましたが、家に帰ったとたんに破れてしまいました。
田中さん:猫に小判ですね。

Good.
But if you write "家に帰ったとたんに破いてしまいました", it would be better.
Because, in your sentense, the cause why it got ripped is not shown. It reads Sato-san did nothing wrong.
If Sato-san says "破いて", it can imply she has (accidentally) ripped the Gucci.

For example, would one normally say "一石二鳥" in the same way an English speaker would say "it'll be like killing two birds with one stone"?

Yes we would. As far as I know, they exactly mean same.It is commonly believed that it was originally translated from English.
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby furrykef » Wed 09.09.2009 4:24 am

NileCat wrote:If anything, some might think those proverbs sound a little bit trite. For instance, I think teenagers rarely use them but grandmas would like them a lot. But I suppose this is as same as in English, isn't it?


Very much so. :)

Thanks for those expressions, by the way. Got any more good ones that are easy to understand? :)
Last edited by furrykef on Wed 09.09.2009 4:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby astaroth » Wed 09.09.2009 4:27 am

This is a very interesting post. Personally I only knew 一石二鳥 ... :oops:
Is there a proverb in Japanese similar to the fox and the grape? That is a proverb with meaning similar to the Aesop's fable of same title?
In English it is the origin of the idiom "sour grape" which means "the false denial of desire for something sought but not acquired" or "the denigration and feigning of disdain for that which one could not attain". (I usually use it with the latter meaning ...)
ー 流光 ー

   花地世
小  見獄の
林  かの中
一  な上は
茶   の 
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby furrykef » Wed 09.09.2009 4:49 am

By the way, there are couple more proverbs here, and one that I have written down that isn't on the list:

とらぬ狸の皮算用
とらぬ たぬきの かわざんよう
To count your chickens before they hatch
(Literally: to assume you can grab a tanuki)

I'm not sure what's with the grammar, though. I know とらぬ is the classical way to write とらない, but I'm not sure why the negative is used in the first place. Nor am I sure which kanji for とる is the best one to use, so I wrote it in kana. ^^;

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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 09.09.2009 8:39 am

It looks to me to be something along the lines of counting the price of the hide before you catch the tanuki.
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby AJBryant » Wed 09.09.2009 8:55 am

furrykef wrote:I'm not sure what's with the grammar, though. I know とらぬ is the classical way to write とらない, but I'm not sure why the negative is used in the first place.


Because とらぬ狸 means "un-caught tanuki" ... And that's not really what the proverb says. "computing [the value of] the skin of an un-caught tanuki" is a passable translation.

I guess that's close enough to "counting your chickens before they're hatched." (aka, "counting un-hatched chickens").


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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby NileCat » Wed 09.09.2009 11:16 am

astaroth wrote:Is there a proverb in Japanese similar to the fox and the grape? That is a proverb with meaning similar to the Aesop's fable of same title?

1. translation
負け惜しみ(まけおしみ)is the word for "sour grape"
e.g. 負け惜しみを言う
「負け惜しみを言うなよ」
「彼は負け惜しみを言っているだけさ」
「それは負け惜しみでしょ?」
It's very commonly used.

2. proverb
「負け惜しみの減らず口」(まけおしみのへらずぐち)
But this proverb is not that common.

3. title of the Aesop's fable
The common translation would be 「すっぱいブドウ」
which literally means "sour" "grape".
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Re: Confused over role of proverbs in the language.

Postby furrykef » Wed 09.09.2009 12:35 pm

AJBryant wrote:Because とらぬ狸 means "un-caught tanuki" ... And that's not really what the proverb says. "computing [the value of] the skin of an un-caught tanuki" is a passable translation.


Ahh, that makes sense. Thanks :)
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