A proverb a day…

朱に交われば赤く成る 04/15/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 8:29 am


(shu ni majiwareba akaku naru) 

=Evil communications corrupt

 good manners (1 Cor 15/33)
朱に交われば赤く成る, a popular and commonly used ことわざ literally translates as “If you mix with vermilion (a reddish hue) you will become red.” This acts as a warning that one will become whomever they associate with. In other words be careful who you associate with. The most common use of this proverb is a warning to children, friends, or family. Especially if you feel they are falling in with the wrong crowd. But, my coworker confirmed that you could also use this ことわざ defend yourself sarcastically. For example if you’re laziness is discussed in a casual manner, you can say “Well…all of my friends are American…朱に交われば赤く成る.” I also plan to use this as a warning to Japanese people who spend a lot of time with them…I will warn them that they may become brilliant/loud/obnoxious/dangerous (or any other adjective that describes me).

交われ= (form of) to interact; to mix; to mingle
-ば= if; when; whenever

あか= red
なる= become


亀の甲より年の功 04/14/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 9:56 am


(kame no kou yori toshi no kou) 

= experience is the best teacher
For many of us foreigners working in Japanese schools, sometimes we can become frustrated with the manner of teaching. While the western world is gravitating towards ‘higher order thinking,’ ‘journaling,’ and ‘experience’ based education, Japanese schools still reply upon the simplistic transfer of knowledge. The ことわざ 亀の甲より年の功, is perhaps a pleasant way for us to make our opinions heard. This is a somewhat common expression mostly used by elders in a family to remind young ones that ‘experience is the best teacher.’ Although upon further inspection, this use of the proverb may be lost in translation. Translating this ことわざ is tricky. Literally it means, “Wisdom of age is better than the turtle’s shell.” This works conveniently to an English speaker’s mind because we may view the ‘turtle shell’ as a metaphor for a ‘sheltered life’ and thus someone void of experience. Though my co-worker dismissed this notion and added that this particular ことわざ is more of a ‘play on words’ by using the same sound of こう within the different words. He also translated 亀の甲より年の功 as the longer we live the wiser we are.  In actuality this is appears to be more of a tribute to the elderly, whom Japanese culture respects dearly.

亀の甲= turtle shell
= turtle

= shell (when used together in this case)

より= better than

年の功= wisdom of age
= year; age


枯れ木も山の賑わい 04/13/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 11:51 am

(kareki mo yama no nigiwai) 

= Even a dead tree decorates the

枯れ木も山の賑わい, is a commonly used ことわざ meaning, “Even a dead tree decorates the mountain.” While some sources relate this to the English expression, “something is better than nothing.” Though it’s when this ことわざ is used that makes me think it carries an entirely different context than its English counterpart. 枯れ木も山の賑わい should be used when you are doing something you don’t want too, but understand that it’s ‘all part of the plan.’ Another co-worker explained that ‘even something bad is better than nothing at all.’ So this doesn’t directly translate into a poor Mother correcting her child who is complaining about eating stale bread. This can be used often, especially in the work place. I highly recommend you say this ことわざ to a friendly co-worker when:
1.) you’re/they’re at a boring meeting
2.) you’re/they’re about to leave for a dull conference
3.) you/they have to work on a Saturday
4.) you/they are working late
枯れ木= dying tree; dead tree
枯れる= withered (verb)
= tree
= forest (notice how it’s simply three of the ‘tree’ kanji put together to form ‘forest’)

= mountain
賑わう= be crowded; be active (verb)
賑わい= decorated; crowded (noun)


芋 (の子) を洗うよう 04/12/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 9:17 am

芋 (の子) を洗うよう
(imo (no ko) o arau you) 
= jam-packed (water-related)
The idiom 芋 (の子) を洗うよう means ‘like washing (a bucketful of) potatoes.’ This term can be used to describe some place that is over-crowded. For example, a beach on a sunny summer day. This idiom can also be used as a synonym for すしずめ (paked in like sardines). However, 芋 (の子) を洗うよう usage is restricted for when water is involved. This is because the potatoes hitting in eachother in the waters of the bucket are a metaphor for people hitting eachother in the ocean waters at the beach.
じゃがいも= potato
Resource: Maynard, 101 Japanese Idioms


去る者は日々に疎し 04/08/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 8:55 am



(saru mono ha hibi ni utoshi) 

= out of sight, out of mind
去る者は日々に疎し is a common ことわざ, meaning “out of sight, out of mind.” A co-worker translated it as meaning, “When someone is leaving, they can be forgotten.” He explained this would be a rude expression to say to someone, because it basically means when someone is not around, they are not in your thoughts. I suppose this phrase can apply often in Japan since many workers are transfered great distances away from their loved ones and families.

去る= go (of people); leave
= person
= day


絵に画いた餅 04/05/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 9:56 am

(e ni kaita mochi) 
= pie in the sky
絵に画いた餅,  a common ことわざ, is translated directly as “A picture/drawing of a rice cake.” Though it cares the same meaning as the English proverb, “pie in the sky.” Meaning one is unable to eat a rice cake that is drawn, just as one is unable to reach a pie in the sky. This phrase is at the heart of Japanese culture. Though not as embedded with Confuscious like hierarchy, Japanese people are certainly raised to know their limits. For example, I often hear of students being not to apply to certain schools or pursue specific careers because they are not smart enough and will fail. While, in America, everyone grows up with the mindset of the ‘self-made man’ that everyone can attain his/her dreams since practice makes perfect, though many of them are just pipedreams. Consequently, I can see this ことわさ being used often to quickly label one’s pursuits/dreams as impossible, which can have both a positive and negative impact, depending on how you look at it.
= painting; picture

= rice cake (though I’ve found that the hiragana is used as well)


鬼の居ぬ間に洗濯 04/02/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cravevsworld @ 9:11 am



(oni no inu ma ni sentaku) 

= when the cat’s away the mice

will play

鬼の居ぬ間に洗濯,  a common ことわざ, is translated as “While the demon is not here, we clean (relax).” It is the equivalent to “when the cat’s away the mice will play” in meaning, usage, and context. 
= demon; ogre…sometimes used to describe an ‘evil’ and strict wife or boss

居ぬ= not present; doesn’t exist
= interval; pause 
洗濯= laundry; washing; cleaning (in this ことわざ, it means to relax)