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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


しつう はったつ
shitsuu hattatsu

4 and 8 both get used in Japanese to convey totality: on all sides (四面楚歌) or in all directions (八方美人). Using them together increases this effect.

1. Accessible from everywhere/providing access to everywhere.
2. At the center of a comprehensive traffic network.

Like how the definition includes another yo-ji that makes use of the same 4/8 effect?

Note: Don't confuse the 4/8 in 四苦八苦 to mean "suffering from all sides." In this case, it actually refers to a specific number of pains and sufferings. See our post on it for more information.

From up here, looking at the way Osaka sprawls out below us, the roads run in all directions and the people coming and going are as small as ants.

Monday, April 27, 2009


しかく しめん
shikaku shimen

Back this week, with what we hope will be a full week of posts. What with Golden Week coming up, we're gonna try to get our study licks in now, before the beach and the road start calling. So, at least for the yo-jis, lets try to go with numbers this week.

The kanji here are easy enough. 四角 is the Japanese word for a rectangle. I'm not clear on the exact definitions, but it means "four angles." 正方形 (せいほうけい; seihoukei) is the term for something that is geometrically perfectly square, and 長方形 (ちょうほうけい;
chouhoukei) is the one for a rectangle. The way I figure it, they're both 四角.

四面, which shows up in THIS other famous 四字熟語, means "four sides," which, in many cases, is ALL sides.

For today's purposes, something with four sides and four angles is, well...

1. Square.
2. Overly formal.
3. Serious/Dilligent/Straight-laced to the point of being inflexible.

The wording of the definition is worth noting: 融通がきかない: inflexible. I've been stuck for too long with 気楽 to mean "easy-going" when often I've wanted to say 融通が利く, to be flexible.

Today's post reminds me of 杓子定規.

If your way of thinking is too rigid, you're guaranteed to come into conflict with the opinions of those around you.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Let's hit the は行 for a look at words related to interest that might help make your 言い回し a bit more 日本人ぽい. We've got three for you today:


to get into (something in a big way); to fall into; to be addicted to; to
be deep into; to plunge into; to be deceived.
As you can see by the wide range of translations, 嵌る is all about something that TRAPS you. It can be as something that catches and holds your interest, in a 興味津々 way, like me and the song Paper Planes by M.I.A, or Brett and black tar heroin. Yes, 嵌る is the verb you use for drug or tobacco addictions as well.

to come into fashion; to be trendy; to be popular.

"What's popular?" is a really common question in Japan. I always felt that there was a paradoxical tendency for the popular to be unpopular in America. I can't imagine the word "trendy" having a positive context. But kids in class will ask me, アメリカで、何が流行っていますか? What's all the rage in America? And when some of my old students stopped by my house to say hi, they got into a conversation with Yuri who asked them which stars were popular among kids these days. Those kinds of topics come up a lot, and while me and my 調子乗っている, 考えすぎ ilk would never want to seem like our interests were pretty much the same as the national interest, I get the sense that this is no problem in Japan.

Another good word to associate with 流行っている、is ブーム。 As in "Dude, those butt toning sandals are so ブーム right now."

Confusing Example Sentence and Explanatory Video:


to fall in love; to be charmed with; to lose one's heart to.

You can use 嵌る with 首っ丈, but 惚れる is a better choice. I actually only learned this word a few days ago, when my new students asked me if I had a girlfriend. When I said yes, they asked the same question Japanese people always ask: どちから?Which one of you was the pursuer? I said it was mutual, and they said "惚れている?" which I replied "Yes" to, after figuring out what it meant. Then they asked "やっている?" and I turned bright red.
The most common usage I've come across on the webs is in describing someone as a 惚れる男 or a 惚れる女 (although men are much more prominent). It's basically the kind of person you could fall in love with.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


きょうみ さくぜん
kyoumi sakuzen

As promised, Wednesday's yo-ji stands in stark opposition to Monday's. Whereas 興味津々 is about something that grabs your attention and refuses to let go, 興味索然 lets go pretty fast, cause it never really had you all that interested to begin with.

1. Uninteresting.
2. Something that actually deters interest.
3. Taking the fun/pleasure out of...
4. Raining on the blanket parade...
(Get it? Wet blanket? Hilarious.)

This one is pretty easy to use by adding です, but you can also attach 的 and use it like an adjective.

And forgive the video for the fact that its only relevancy is its title. I was blown away that I found this while researching this yo-ji.

The first season of Heroes was really engaging, but recently it's completely uninteresting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

This week, it looks like we're gonna be working off of a general theme of "interest."

Yesterday's 興味津々 leads us nicely into the idea of today's Language Trivia, albeit with a slightly different twist.



up to the neck

This one is useful when you want to talk about an overwhelming interest that borders on devotion, ESPECIALLY when that interest is in a person of the opposite sex.

Used often (even, defined often) with 夢中, which I'm pretty sure we've covered before.

Saying 「誰か」or 「何かに夢中」 is to say that you are "infatuated" and gets employed when translating what we label, in English, "a crush."

首っ丈, on the other hand, also used with に, does carry the weight of "devotion," so it might be better translated as "to only have eyes for..."

I'm willing to bet you'll get major points when you use it on your significant other, and, if you do have a significant other, try using it as a response to those people who ask about your モテモテ status, like so:

Random Japanese person: ブレットさんはモテモテだろう。
Brett, you must be fighting the ladies off with a stick, right?
Brett: まあ。彼女に首っ丈だから。。。
Actually... I only have eyes for my girl. (so... yes. It's a heavy stick.)

(Artist's rendering of Brett. Pretty faithful.)

Monday, April 13, 2009


きょうみ しんしん
kyoumi shinshin

We've discussed the kanji 津 before, when we did 津々浦々. It means "port," or "harbor," but remember: we also discussed how referring to multiple ports (津津) in an island nation lends itself to an idea all-encompassing "everywhere-ness." Maybe that has something to do with why 津津 can be defined as "being full," or "brimming," as it is here.

興味, as you probably know, is "interest," as in 「四字熟語に興味あります:I'm interested in Yojijukugo.」

1. highly interested
2. being immensely curious
3. with inexhaustible interest

The Japanese definition above specifies an interest that becomes more and more engaging the more you get into it, in a way that seems like it might never end.

Another good word to know in this case is 興味深い (きょうみぶかい;kyoumi bukai): of deep interest. So, "very interesting."

We'll have more in the way of antonyms next time!

There's intense curiousity about how the world of television dramas will develop from here on out.