Sadao Mazuka wrote to us from Japan about Japanese idiomatic expressions about cats. Here’s his email:
I was very much interested in your blog post, “Animal Names used as Terms of Endearment” that was written by Monique.
I don’t think we have any phrases about a child or spouse with a connection like “honey + animal” [i.e. honey-bear] or “sugar+animal” [i.e. sugar-bear]. I mean there is no term of endearment adding some kind of animal strictly speaking. But sometimes we say that my child is lovely like a kitty, a kid or a cat. If it is connected to some animals, it doesn’t always express a good meaning as in the expression, “He is crying like a chicken.” This will express someone who’s very noisy. Though the next expression, you will feel is funny. “He is walking like a penguin.” This is used in the world generally.
Only for “cat” do we have many idiomatic expressions and proverbs as follows:
1. 猫かわいがり (Neko-kawaigari = loving like a cat)
(Japanese) He dotes on his grand-daughter like a kitty. (English meaning) He simply dotes on his only grandchild.
2. この子は今日は借りてきた猫のようだ (Kono-ko wa kyou-wa karite kita neko-no youda)
(Japanese) This child is as gentle as a cat that’s kept from someone. = (English) This child is as gentle as a lamb.
(Japanese) It is like casting a koban before a cat. = (English) It is like casting pearls before swine. (Koban; refers to an oval gold coin used in the Edo-period.)
4. 通りには猫の子一匹もいなかった (Tohri-niwa neko-no-ko ippiki inakatta)
(Japanese): Not a cat was seen on the street. = (English): Not a soul was seen on the street.
5. 猫の手も借りたいくらいだ (Neko-no te-mo karitai kurai-da)
(Japanese) We are so busy we’ll take any hands of cats for help. (English) We are so busy we’ll take any help we can get.
6. 猫の額 (Neko-no hitai = Cat’s forehead)
Expression about a tiny little space, room, or ground.
7. 猫被り(Neko-kaburi)；Make one’s face like a kitty.
English ; a put-on; fake modesty; feigned ignorance.
Example of English sentence；Her gentle manner at the interview was just a put-on.
8. 猫舌(Neko-jita = Cat’s tongue)
English sentence；I can’t eat food that’s too hot. (or) My tongue cannot take anything too hot.
English;≪grass≫ a foxtail or green bristlegrass.
10. 猫なで声 (Neko-nade goe = Gentle talk while petting a cat.)
(English): an ingratiating voice, or a coaxing voice.
Example of English sentence: I was deceived by her oily tone [wheedling tone].
And we have many expressions concerning the word “dog”, “monkey”, etc.
These are all used in conversation, not in literary or technical terms.
I attached some pictures; Casting Koban is from a free illustration site and the Green Bristlegrass is from Wikipedia.
All of the examples of Japanese words can be found in the dictionary; PAROGRESSIVE Japanese-English Dictionary the 3rd edition (Shogakukan Co. Ltd).
Thanks so much for sharing these expressions with us Sadao! They’re interesting to learn!
This article was posted on Friday, December 5th, 2014 at 11:24 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Idiomatic Expressions, Idiomatic Expressions with Cats, Japan, Japanese, Languages, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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