Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kittydioms (猫の慣用語)

My favorite book at the moment is 2001 Japanese Idioms.
It accompanied me to our camping trip to Lake Aoki.
We met a new feline friend at the campsite, which ended up coming home with Ko.
I found the idioms about cats quite fun. So here we go.

literal: 文字通り
idiomatic: 慣用語句

Japanese Idioms

猫 ねこ cat

1) 猫も杓子も(ねこもしゃくしも)
文字通り意味:literal meaning: the cat and also the ladle
慣用語句意味:Idiomatic meaning: every Tom, Dick, and Harry
Everyone, or everyone and their mother.

Recently, everyone and their mother is learning Japanese.
These days, every Tom, Dick and Harry is learning Japanese.

So I don't know how "everyone" can be compared to a cat and ladle, or soup spoon. Sounds funny, but I am reminded of how English translates "everything" to "everything and the kitchen sink".

There are two idioms that English speakers use to express this Japanese idiom about the cat and the ladle. An older way is to say "every Tom, Dick, and Harry"....which are common boys names that were popular when the idiom was invented. It's saying that every common person is doing this thing.

The other is "everyone and their mother", which suggests that not only everyone is doing this thing, but their mother too. It's a sarcastic way to say that everyone is doing this thing.

I wonder if the Japanese idiom is has the same sarcastic meaning. What do you think?

文字通り意味:Literal meaning: give coins to a cat
慣用語句意味:Idiomatic meaning: give a present to someone who can't appreciate it or isn't interested in it
Giving him a book is like giving coins to cats. (he doesn't like to read)

There's another idiom that is the same in both Japanese and English. It is "like giving pearls to swine". In Japanese, it is said (豚に真珠). This idiom suggests that giving pearls to pigs is wasteful and they have no use for it, just like cats don't have any use for coins. Often, in Japanese, the 2 idioms are said in unison.

3)猫の手も借りたい (ねこのてもかりたい)
文字通り意味:Literal meaning: to borrow even a cat's paw
Idiomatic meaning: wish you had an extra hand, extra time, or to be two people (said when you are REALLY busy)
When I moved yesterday, I was so busy that I wished I could be two people.

I think this idiom is quite cute. The idea that someone is so busy that they'd even borrow a cat's paw, which wouldn't be very efficient at all, considering cats don't have any fingers or opposable thumbs.

English Idioms

1) to let the cat out of the bag
意味:口を滑らす (くちをすべらす)
英語の意味:to tell a secret

On the day before the surprise party, I let the cat out of the bag.

Okay, who let the cat out of the bag?

2) to look like something the cat dragged in
英語の意味:to look dirty and yucky like a dead mouse

She didn't bring an umbrella and she got all wet. She looks like something the cat dragged in.

3) when the cat is away, the mice will play. 
英語の意味:when nobody is watching, people will act normally and sometimes break the rules

As soon as their boss left for the day, everybody relaxed took a break. When the cat's away, the mice will play.

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