Eight funny & figurative idioms you need to know in Japanese
Welcome back to our first “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video we will take a look at a couple of so called “cushion words” that you can use to make your polite Japanese sound softer and friendlier. Cushion words are essential for natural Japanese, so let’s see how you can integrate them into your speech!
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Welcome back to our first “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video we will take a look at eight different idioms that are funny or figurative in Japanese. The idioms we will look at today will make your Japanese much more colorful and eloquent, and you can really impress your Japanese friends by using these correctly!
The first idiom we will look at today is the expression “膝が笑う”.
To have wobbly legs
The literal translation of this idiom means “Your knees laugh”, but the actual meaning is that your legs are wobbly, for example because they are very sore or tired, nervous, or scared.
Meaning, my legs are still wobbly from hiking yesterday.
The next idiom is “心臓に毛が生えた”.
To be brave, to have nerves of steel
The literal translation would be “A heart that grows hair”. Someone with “a hairy heart” is someone who is mentally very strong or brave, or has, so to speak, “nerves of steel”. The image is that the hair on the heart makes it less vulnerable.
This is a haunted house where only people with strong nerves want to go in.
The next idiom we’ll take a look at is “～に毛が生えただけ”.
~ is only marginally better than before, ~ is more or less the same
A: You must have had a salary raise after getting a promotion.
B: Well not much, it’s more or less the same.
The next one is called “心ここにあらず”.
The mind is somewhere else
This idiom means that even though a person is physically present, they are so preoccupied with something else that they might just as well not be present. For example:
Meaning, I talked to my wife, but she was on the phone so she ignored me.
This idiom may not sound very funny, but the way “心ここにあらず” is said is an old way of saying that the heart is not present in the moment – it’s kind of like using shakespearean English as a joke in modern English as a joke. Using idioms like 心ここにあらず or any of the other idioms above can take your conversation to the next level!
The next set of idiom is a little less humorous, but still very useful!
The first idiom we will take a look at is “足がない”. This does not mean literally not having legs, but actually means that one doesn’t have a means of transportation.
To have no means of transportation
I don’t have my own transport, so it would be great if you could give me a ride.
The next idiom is “腹を割る”. “腹” means stomach and “割る” means to split – but this is not about getting a sick pack or splitting your stomach. This means talking with someone heart to heart, or to be very frank with someone.
To talk heart to heart, to be frank
One theory is that before human anatomy was fully understood, people believed that their heart was located around the stomach area. Therefore, this idiom has come to mean to talk heart to heart.
Let’s talk heart to heart today!
“腹を割って話そう” is a very useful phrase to let Japanese people start being honest. Because of Japan’s culture of politeness, what people display in public may be different from their real feelings. For example, a bride’s father might ask his future son-in-law to talk honestly before the wedding by asking:
The next idiom is very commonly used in Japan: “相変わらず”.
The same as always
A: What’s up?
B: Nothing much…
The last idiom we will take a look at today is called “鼻で笑う”. This means to laugh about someone or to make fun of someone.
To laugh about someone, to laugh scornfully
Did you just make fun of me?!
That is all for today’s lesson. If you have any questions you can always clear them up by booking a lesson with one of our native Japanese tutors. See you next time!
|膝が笑う||To have wobbly legs|
|心臓に毛が生えた||To be brave, to have nerves of steel|
|～に毛が生えただけ||~ is only marginally better than before, ~ is more or less the same|
|心ここにあらず||The mind is somewhere else|
|足がない||To have no means of transportation|
|腹を割る||To talk heart to heart, to be frank|
|相変わらず||The same as always|
|鼻で笑う||To laugh about someone, to laugh scornfully|