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Eight funny & figurative idioms you need to know in Japanese

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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!

Table of Contents
[(ひざ)(わら)う]

[心臓(しんぞう)()()えた]

[~に()()えただけ]

[(こころ)ここにあらず]

[(あし)がない]

[(はら)()る]

[相変(あいか)わらず]

[(はな)(わら)う]

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!

[(ひざ)(わら)う]

The first idiom we will look at today is the expression “(ひざ)(わら)う”.

(ひざ)(わら)
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.

Example:

昨日(きのう)のハイキングで(ひざ)がまだ(わら)ってる。
Meaning, my legs are still wobbly from hiking yesterday.

[心臓(しんぞう)()()えた]

The next idiom is “心臓(しんぞう)()()えた”.

心臓(しんぞう)()()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.

Example:

心臓(しんぞう)()()えた人だけが入りたがるお化け屋敷。
This is a haunted house where only people with strong nerves want to go in.

[~に()()えただけ]

The next idiom we’ll take a look at is “~に()()えただけ”.

~に()()えただけ
~ is only marginally better than before, ~ is more or less the same

Example:

A: 昇給(しょうきゅう)して給料(きゅうりょう)あがったんじゃない?
A: You must have had a salary raise after getting a promotion.

B: いや、(まえ)給料(きゅうりょう)()()えた程度(ていど)だよ
B: Well not much, it’s more or less the same.

[(こころ)ここにあらず]

The next one is called “(こころ)ここにあらず”.

(こころ)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:

(つま)(はな)しかけたけど携帯(けいたい)集中(しゅうちゅう)していて返事(へんじ)(ざつ)(つま)(こころ)ここにあらずだった。
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 “(こころ)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 (こころ)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!

[(あし)がない]

The first idiom we will take a look at is “(あし)がない”. This does not mean literally not having legs, but actually means that one doesn’t have a means of transportation.

(あし)がない
To have no means of transportation

For example:

(あし)がないので、一緒に乗せてもらえるとありがたい。
I don’t have my own transport, so it would be great if you could give me a ride.

[(はら)()る]

The next idiom is “(はら)()る”. “(はら)” means stomach and “()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.

(はら)()
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.

For example:

今日(きょう)(はら)()って(はな)そう!
Let’s talk heart to heart today!

(はら)()って(はな)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:

今日(きょう)(はら)()って(はなし)そうじゃないか。

[相変(あいか)わらず]

The next idiom is very commonly used in Japan: “相変(あいか)わらず”.

相変(あいか)わらず
The same as always

For example:

A: 最近(さいきん)どう?
A: What’s up?

B: 相変(あいか)わらず。。
B: Nothing much…

[(はな)(わら)う]

The last idiom we will take a look at today is called “(はな)(わら)う”. This means to laugh about someone or to make fun of someone.

(はな)(わら)
To laugh about someone, to laugh scornfully

For example:

あ!いま(はな)(わら)った?
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!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
(ひざ)(わら) To have wobbly legs
心臓(しんぞう)()()えた To be brave, to have nerves of steel
~に()()えただけ ~ is only marginally better than before, ~ is more or less the same
(こころ)ここにあらず The mind is somewhere else
(あし)がない To have no means of transportation
(はら)() To talk heart to heart, to be frank
相変(あいか)わらず The same as always
(はな)(わら) To laugh about someone, to laugh scornfully

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