Japanese Expressions ①

In Japanese by Jeremy Arns

I imagine English learners come across phrases like “You’re pulling my leg, right?” or “Don’t let the cat out of the bag,” that might not make sense unless explained first. Japanese (as I assume every language) has many expressions/idioms that need explaining what they mean as well.

lit: Hand come out of the throat.

To want something very badly. Long ago it was a saying implying to want food so badly it’s as if hand could come out of the throat and grab it (or more like thrust your face in the food and eat without your hands), but now can imply wanting anything besides just food.

Ex: あのスポーツカー喉から手が出るほど欲しいんだ。
I want that sports car so bad I can’t stand it.

lit: To be attached by a red string.

Destined to be together. There’s a legend that people who are meant to be together are attached pinky to pinky by a red string (that can’t be seen).

Ex: 赤い糸で結ばれているような気がする。
I feel like we were destined to be together.


lit: Before breakfast.

Much like the English expression “piece of cake”, implying something is so easy it could be done before breakfast.

Ex: そんなことは朝飯前さ。
That’ll be a piece of cake.

lit: Insert in the ear.

To overhear something. The 小 used here is an old prefix roughly equivalent to “ちょっと”, so it doesn’t mean “little ear” like it may seem.

Ex: いい話を耳に挟んだ
I overheard a good story.
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