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Romaji: Sumeba miyako Literally: If residing, capital/metropolis Meaning: Wherever you live, you come to love it. Notes: -eba is a conditional miyako is kun-yomi for the `to' in Kyoto.
Romaji: Nana korobi, ya oki Literally: Seven falls, eight getting up Meaning: Fall down seven times, get up eight times. An encouragement to persevere (ganbaru) Notes: From the verbs korobu and okiru respectively.
Romaji: Saru mo ki kara ochiru Literally: Even monkees fall from trees Meaning: Even an expert can make mistakes; also sometimes used as a warning that "pride comes before a fall" Notes: A well known proverb, this one, with several variations (see following examples)
Romaji: Kappa mo kawa nagare Literally: Even a `Kappa' can get carried away by the river Meaning: Similar to saru mo ki kara ochiru, ie: anyone can make mistakes. Notes: A `kappa' is a water-sprite, but is used here for a good swimmer Often written as kappa no kawanagare.
Romaji: Koubou mo fude no ayamari Literally: Even `Koubou' made mistakes with his brush Meaning: Similar to saru mo ki kara ochiru, ie: even experts can make mistakes (and to a lesser extent "pride leads to a fall") Notes: Koubou was a Buddhist priest famous for his calligraphy.
Romaji: Baka mo ichi-gei Literally: Even a fool has one talent Meaning: Even a fool may be good at something (I can't think of another way of putting this!) Notes: This is the `gei' of geisha.
Romaji: Juu-nin to-iro Literally: Ten people, ten colours Meaning: Everyone has their own tastes; "Different strokes for different folks" Notes: Incidentally, apart from colour, iro is also used to COMPARE/CONTRAST II TEMPLATE: - newclassroom sexy or exciting; eg: iroppoi = sexy. Another digression: -ppoi can be translated as `-ish' (eg: aka-ppoi = reddish) or sometimes as "has a strong impression of X" (eg: uso-ppoi = sounds like a lie).
Romaji: Toranu tanuki no kawa zan'you Literally: Count the skins of badgers which haven't been caught Meaning: "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched" Notes: -nu is a negative ending, and toranu modifies tanuki A tanuki is a Japanese animal somewhat like a badger or a racoon zan'you (usually san'you) means to calculate, or estimate.
Romaji: Isseki ni chou Literally: Farewell Messages for Teachers: Goodbye Quotes for stone, two birds Meaning: "To kill two birds with one stone" Notes: This is an idiom rather than a kotowaza (proverb)
Romaji: Neko ni koban Literally: A coin to a cat Meaning: "Pearls before swine"; ie: don't offer things to people who are incapable of appreciating them. Notes: A koban was an old gold coin.
Romaji: Buta ni shinju Literally: A pearl to a pig Meaning: "Pearls before swine"; ie: don't offer things to people who are incapable of appreciating them.
Romaji: Nakitsura ni hachi Literally: A bee to a crying face Meaning: Misfortunes seldom come alone; "When it rains, it pours" Notes: Nakitsura is a compound of two kun readings: naku to cry, and tsura face (men is an on reading).
Romaji: Isogaba maware Literally: If hurried, go around Meaning: When hurried it is often faster to take a roundabout route, (ie: "more haste, less speed")
Romaji: Ame futte ji katamaru Literally: Rained on ground hardens Meaning: Adversity builds character.
Romaji: Uma no mimi ni nembutsu Literally: A sutra (Buddhist prayer) in a horse's ear Meaning: A wasted effort; "pearls before swine"
Romaji: Deru kugi wa utareru Literally: Sticking out nail be hammered Meaning: The nail which sticks out will get hammered; encourages conformity Notes: Deru (to come out/stick out) modifies kugi (nail) Utareru is the passive form of utsu (to hit/strike) Sometimes kui (stake) is used instead of kugi Note: This kotowaza is used by some people (who should know better) to make glib generalisations about Japanese culture!
Romaji: Onna sannin yoreba kashimashii Literally: If three women visit, noisy Meaning: Wherever three women gather it is noisy Notes: this is a sort of pun, since the kanji for kashimashii (noisy/boisterous) is made up of three small kanji for woman. Interestingly, the meaning of this Catwoman (Character) - Comic Vine in compounds usually implies craftiness or wickedness. Eg: kanjin = villain/scoundrel; kampu = adultress. yoreba is a conditional form of yoru = to visit/drop in.
Romaji: He wo hitte, shiri tsubome Literally: Breaking wind, closing buttocks Meaning: There's no point in squeezing your buttocks after you have farted; "No use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted" Notes: He can also be read onara, Thesis vs dissertations board | dogandcatmoab fart Tsubomeru is to make narrow or to shut The linking of two -te form verbs like this gives the idea of doing X and then doing Y.
Romaji: Fuku sui bon ni kaerazu Literally: Overturned water doesn't return to the tray Meaning: What's done is done; "There's no use crying over spilt milk" Notes: Fuku-sui is a compound made up of two on readings. The kun reading of fuku is kutsukaesu = to overturn; and the kun reading for sui is of course mizu Bon is the same character as in the obon festival The -zu ending in kaerazu is a negative (like -nai)
Romaji: Rakka eda ni kaerazu, hakyou futatabi terasazu Literally: Fallen blossom doesn't return to the branch, a broken mirror can not be made to shine Meaning: What's done is done; "There's no use crying over spilled milk" Notes: The ra in rakka is the kanji for otosu (to drop/let fall), but can also be read as ochi (the punchline of a joke) and is also the ra in rakugo (traditional funny story telling). Hakyou is a compound of yaburu (to tear/break) and kagami (mirror) Futatabi means again/once more Terasu is a verb meaning to shine on/illuminate (eg: teriagaru to clear up after rain), and -zu is a negative ending similar to -nai. Interestingly the kanji is also used for shyness.
Romaji: Atama kakushite, shiri kakusazu Literally: Cover/hide your head, and not cover your bottom Meaning: Don't cover your head but expose your bottom, ie: you have to be careful not to expose your weak point while attempting to protect yourself Notes: -zu is an informal negative, like -nai.
Romaji: Tonari no shibafu wa aoi Literally: The neighbour's lawn is green Meaning: "The grass is always greener on the other side" Notes: The wa marks the neighbour's lawn, thus implying comparison Aoi here means "is green", -i adjectives do not require a verb.
Romaji: Ningen banji saiou ga uma Literally: Humans everything `Saiou' horse Meaning: All human affairs are like `Saiou's horse; One's fortune/luck is unpredictable and changeable Notes: Saiou ga uma refers to an J. E. (2003). Public policymaking: An story about a man and a horse, where what at first appears to be good luck turns out to be The importance of Pre-primary education - Blogger luck How to write an essay about a movie review rating
got a couple of replies to this article relating the story of Saiou ga uma. It appears that it was an old Chinese folk take about an old man called Sai (the -ou, also read as okina, means "old man"). The story goes that one day his horse broke down the fence and ran away. When his neighbours heard, Treatments and Therapies commiserated with him over Arts + Sciences | Seoul | South Korea | College Study misfortune, but he said `How do you know this is not really good luck?'. A few days later the horse returned, bringing another horse with it. However when his neighbours congratulated him on his good luck, the old man said `How do you know this is really good luck?' Sure enough, some while later Sai's son falls while riding the horse, and breaks his leg. However this turns out to be good fortune when all the young men of the village are ordered to join the Emperor's army. Sai's son doesn't have to go since he has a broken leg. Thanks to Naoki Shibata and Karen S. Chung for replying. Also Dave Huntsman points out that the Canon Wordtank translates Ningen banji, saiou ga uma as "Inscrutable are the ways of heaven". Romaji: Gou ni itte wa, gou ni shitagae Literally: Entering the village, obey the village Meaning: "When in Rome, do as the Romans" Notes: The wa topicalizes the first clause, so this could be translated "Concerning entering a village. " or more naturally "When entering a village. " Gou is a village or district or country Shitagae is the direct imperative of shitagau (to obey)