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JAPANESE PROVERB


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Last update April 3, 2011




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格言  Proverb/Saying  Kakugen [kah-coo-ghen]

 FILE 4 

To(n)bi ga taka wo umu
鳶が鷹を生む 
と(ん)びがたかをうむ

 Pronunciation 
[toh・(n)・bee・gah・tah・kah・oh・uh・moo]

 Word Data 
と(ん)び  to(n)bi = a kite (bird)
  ga = joshi
たか  taka = a hawk or falcon
  wo = joshi
うむ  umu = to give a birth to


 Translation 
A kite gives a birth to a hawk. / A kite parent has a hawk child.
 English Equivalent 
A black hen lays white eggs.

You say "like father, like son", but sometimes you may want to say the opposite, when you are amazed to see an extraordinary child born to ordinary parents. In the saying, "a kite" means an ordinary person while "a hawk" refers to someone that is smarter or greater.

 Usage 
Hanako: Hey, you didn't tell your son was the CEO of that big company!
Taro: Don't say "To(n)bi ga taka wo unda*", isn't it?
* Gave birth to; The past tense of umu.
 FILE 3 

Hi ni abura wo sosogu
火に油を注ぐ 
ひにあぶらをそそぐ

 Pronunciation 
[he・knee・ah・boo・rah・oh・soh・soh・goo]

 Word Data 
  hi = fire
  ni = joshi
あぶら  abura = oil
  wo = joshi
そそぐ  sosogu = to pour

 Translation 
Pour oil to the fire.
 English Equivalent 
Add fuel to the flame.

Often used in a negative connotation, it refers to aggravating the intensity of things (such as anger, passion, etc.) that are already strong or violent.

 Usage 
Suzuki: Do you think we should report this to the boss now?
Tanaka: No way, he's already furious about something else, and it's like "Hi ni abura wo sosogu".

 FILE 2 

Yoku manabe yoku asobe
よく学べよく遊べ 
よくまなべよくあそべ

 Pronunciation 
[yoh・coo・mah・nah・beh・yoh・coo・ah・soh・beh]

 Word Data 
よく  yoku = well; in a good way
まなべ  manabe = learn: an imperative mood of the verb manabu
よく  yoku = well, in a good way
あそべ  asobe = play; have fun:an imperative mood of the verb asobu

 Translation 
Learn well, play well.
 English Equivalent 
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Probably imported from the English version, it denotes what a good child should be. The irony is, however, many parents (possibly dull Jacks and Jills themselves) in Japan want their kids to be an all-work-and-no-play Jack simply to enter a higher-level college.

 Usage 
Mother: My dear, our son never opens his textbook at home.
Father: Never mind, they say "Yoku manabe yoku asobe", don't they?
 FILE 1 

Owari yokereba subete yoshi
終わりよければすべてよし 
おわりよければすべてよし

 Pronunciation 
[oh・wah・ree・yoh・keh・reh・bah・sue・beh・teh・yoh・she]

 Word Data 
おわり  owari = an end
よければ  yokereba = if something is good
すべて  subete = all
よし  yoshi = good

 Translation 
If something has a good ending, then it is good in its entirety.
 English Equivalent 
All's well that ends well.

Probably imported from the English version. It's used to describe something (e.g. event or project), which eventually turned out to be successful after twists and turns, problems, troubles or confusion.

 Usage 
Yamada: I still don't appreciate the way he handled the customer complaint.
Sasaki: But he did close the deal and the customer is happy; it's "Owari yokereba subete yoshi".

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