What is the harshness of についてとやかく言う?




I don't give a damn about your personal life.

I have also seen についてとやかく言う translated as "quibble over". Could another translation of this sentence be:


I really don't want to bicker about your private life.

Is についてとやかく言う normally understood as metaphorical rather than literally "bicker" or "quibble over"? There was no other context for this quote, so I am also wondering if とやかく is that harsh of an interjection.


Posted 2011-09-28T15:36:20.550

Reputation: 10 735

1I'm not sure "give a damn" and "ありません" share the same politeness level, however harsh it may be… – Axioplase – 2011-09-29T01:10:30.973

the first translation was the one supplied by ALC, and I agree that the "damn" mixed with "ありません" sounded a little off. – yadokari – 2011-09-29T02:32:35.300

I think this gets back into the "does Japanese really have curse words" debate... – Karl Knechtel – 2011-09-30T10:02:56.190



Translations depend on context. You can translate literally, use metaphors, ...etc, but it all depends on context and, especially in Japanese, the relation between the 2 interlocutors (level of speech used)

Usually you take the literal translation to get the general meaning:


I have no plan to complain about your private life. (とやかく meaning "this and that, all kind of things" here)

Then depending on the context, interlocutors, and situation you can find synonyms for "complain" like "quibble over", why not. It also depends on who you aim at with your translation.

The use of the ます/ません form in some cases can be sarcastic so there's nothing wrong using "give a damn" in English. (although there's あなた at the beginning, so this is less likely)

Tangorin gives these example sentences:

  • 私個人の生活についてとやかくうるさくいうのはやめてください。

Get off my back about my personal life!

  • 細かいことでとやかく言うのはよそう。

Let's not quibble over trivial matters.

  • 彼女は私が遅く帰って来たことにとやかくいった。

She went on at me for coming home late.

NOTE: I realize you say there was no context with the sentence. I personally think this is not a harsh expression and shouldn't be translated as "give a damn" or "get off my back" unless the level of speech is lowered considerably. (あんた、おまえ、つもりない...etc.)

とやかく言う is a metaphor.

とやかく which original characters are 兎や角 shares the same etymology with とにかく and ともかく that you may have heard more often. (note that 兎耳 {うさぎみみ} is a gossiper (or someone with long ears) )


According to the following 2 links




Both と and かく are adverbs that can be written using 兎角 or 左右 independently from the meaning of the characters. (ateji)

wrong theory

I think the etymology of 兎や角 (and derivatives) comes from the Chinese expression:

龟毛兔角 = Turtles with hair and rabbits with horns = Things that don't exist, impossible

By stretching things a little, 兎や角言う could literally mean:

"talking about rabbits and horns" => gossip, fantasizing, making things up


Posted 2011-09-28T15:36:20.550

Reputation: 481

とかく and its relatives (including とやかく) do not seem to originate from the Chinese word 兔角. Please read http://gogen-allguide.com/to/tokaku.html. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-11-03T16:46:12.170

@TsuyoshiIto: I see. Since they give no other reference than plain refutal I was very skeptical at first but I followed another link http://gogen-allguide.com/to/tonikaku.html that gives better arguments.

– 龚元程 – 2011-11-04T00:54:54.790

No, no, you have some fundamental misunderstanding about what “ateji” means. Ateji is a kanji notation which was assigned to a word independently of the meaning of the kanji characters. The adverb とかく is simply a combination of two adverbs and かく, and neither 左右 nor 兎角 has anything to do with the etymology of the adverb とかく.

– Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-11-04T01:50:49.187

oh I see! So the assignment of either kanji is arbitrary? – 龚元程 – 2011-11-04T08:36:28.507

(1) Clearly there must be some reason why these kanji characters were chosen instead of some random characters. But the point is that the kanji notations were made after the word was established, and therefore the kanji notations did not play any role in the etymology of the word itself. (2) Your claim “とやかく which original characters are 兎や角” is still incorrect. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-11-04T20:56:40.353