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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

It's time to start packing up and getting read to move out of my house, so today's trivia is a 四字熟語 that is only ever used in one, very specific situation.

天地無用
てんち むよう
tenchi muyou


I struggled to find out exactly why this means what it does for DAYS before just giving up and accepting it, something I often have to do with Japanese things that I don't understand.

The kanji translate loosely as "the futility of all things in heaven and earth" and here's what it means:

THIS. SIDE. UP.

*This also happens to be the name for an anime that uses the odd meaning as a play on words. The main character's name is Tenchi, so it can be read as "No need for Tenchi."

6 comments:

Defendership said...

Holy crap - I watched Tenchi Muyo YEARS ago, and had NO IDEA that's what the meaning was.

Daily Yoji, will you have my babies?

Claytonian said...

I knew that factoid, so I will have those babies now. nom nom nom

If you think about this one, if a box is not properly aligned with heaven and earth, the contents get quashed and it is useless.

Claytonian said...

I just used some google-fu to find something about it at a site: "天地反転無用などの短縮形" also, rikaichan says 天地 can mean "top and bottom".

further reading: http://oshiete1.goo.ne.jp/qa68943.html

AzzidisRidden said...

yeah, I found all that stuff too during my initial search, but what drives me nuts is why 無用, which translates as "is unnecessary" in most situations mutates into "is unacceptable" here.

I found some stuff about how 無用 is used to mean してはいけない, but nothing about why it means that.

Claytonian said...

seems like just a case of related concepts to me. more findings:
確かに、現在の日本では分かりにくい(どころか、逆の意味に感じる)言葉だと思います。
個人的な感覚では、早く死語にならないかなぁ。と思っています。
.
まちがって、ひっくり返してしまって、中身が壊れたら、大変困ってしまいますから。
.
無用=用がない=どうでもいい。に感じてしまいます。
すると「天地無用」=上下はどうでもいい。に感じてしまいます。
.
残って役立つケースはTVのクイズの問題として使われる場合など?。
.
逆にクイズの問題になるような慣用句は、(現在では)不便すぎることの証明。
であると考えています。
(ごく普通に意味が分かったら、全くクイズになりませんから・・・)
.
個人的にはこの言葉を、「ひっくり返すと、中の物が使い物にならなくなる。」
というこじつけ的な解釈で一応、覚えています。
(何かのテスト等で出たら困りますから)
.
多くの人が、簡単に誤解してしまうような言葉は、(現在においては)不便すぎだと思います。
.
仮に「上下厳守」とかだったら、多分、誤解できないとおもうのですが・・・。

AzzidisRidden said...

Damn, Clay. NICE work.