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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cat Expressions in Japanese

「猫」の表現

There are quite a few expressions in Japanese using "cat." Like feelings about the animal itself, the expressions are a mixed bag.

猫撫で声(ねこなでごえ、neko nade goe)= a smooth, soothing voice, like the purring of a cat. It brings to mind a bar hostess plying a salaryman with drinks as she coos in his ear.

猫舌(ねこじた、neko jita)= cat's tongue, and is literal. It means a rough, scratchy tongue. Update: an alert reader has pointed out that this means someone who does not like to eat or drink hot things.

猫の手も借りたいほど(ねこのてもかりたいほど、neko no te mo karitai hodo)= Really busy ("...want to borrow even a cat's paw").

猫に小判(ねこにこばん、neko ni koban)= pearls before swine.

借りてきた猫(かりたてきたねこ、karitate kita neko)= as meek as a lamb, quiet as a mouse.

猫まんま(ねこまんま、neko manma)= to add soup to rice, i.e., eating like a cat (which is not polite).

猫だまし(ねこだまし、neko damashi)= a sumo technique, in which a wrestler at the very beginning of about thrusts both hands at the face of the opposing wrestler. A sneak attack.

猫屋敷(ねこやしき、neko yashiki)= when a group of stray cats takes over an abandoned house, marking it with urine and in general causing trouble for the (human) neighbors.

At least, though, cats haven't been stuck with 負け犬(まけいぬ、the losing dog)= loser.

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1 comment:

Al said...

I've always heard 猫舌 used to mean that you can't handle hot drinks.