Making sense out of Japanese proverbs

9

2

I was never able to make any sense out of the following Japanese proverbs or idiomatic expressions:

豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死んでしまえ。
'Hit your head against a corner of a cake of tofu, and die.'

...の爪の垢を煎じて飲む。
'take extract from one's dirt/wax under the nail, and drink it'

They are nonsense to me, and the latter is also disgusting. How can you die in such a way? What is the purpose of drinking such thing? How can you make a sense out of them?

user458

Posted 2011-12-13T17:26:20.457

Reputation:

Maybe, the first one is saying you have a soft head. The second one might be like saying "eat s**t" in English... – silvermaple – 2011-12-14T00:40:29.683

1The first reminds me of things along the lines of "could drown in a puddle"/"could trip over his own shadow" in English – nkjt – 2011-12-14T15:17:24.430

The first one is from rakugo, which sometimes spout out nonsense. – syockit – 2011-12-31T14:49:25.303

Answers

7

豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死んでしまえ。

Used to say that a person is so stupid (that he would believe this and real find a piece tofu to die). (source)

...の爪の垢を煎じて飲む。

Use the dirt under the nail of ( some expertise ) as a drug, (you'll get some of his talent). (source)

名人の爪の垢を煎じて飲めば少しは腕が上がるだろうに

It'll be hard to make any sense out of them if you see them alone. I'd recommend you to find some reference.

fefe

Posted 2011-12-13T17:26:20.457

Reputation: 3 626

@Mudassir What about a reference like this: http://www.languagerealm.com/japanese/japaneseproverbs.php ? It's not as complete as a book would be... but, there are at least a few proverbs (with their explanations,) listed.

– summea – 2012-02-29T00:47:29.533

1@summea: Thats really nice. Thanks for sharing. – Mudassir – 2012-02-29T03:55:55.657

+1 for nice explanation. Can you please quote some source where I can get Japanese proverbs/idioms/phrases with a good English explanation. – Mudassir – 2011-12-15T12:33:21.953

@Mudassir I haven't come across one yet ... – fefe – 2011-12-15T12:44:24.400