The year of the horse is upon us, and in celebration of the New Year I thought that it might be fun to explore a few Japanese, horse-related expressions. Below is a list of some handy equine expressions to wow Japanese friends and horse-lovers.
|馬が合う||Uma ga au.||To get along with someone/have good chemistry.|
|馬車馬||bashauma||A work horse (e.g., work like a work horse).|
|馬の耳に念仏||Uma no mimi ni nenbutsu||Not willing to listen to what one is told/advice.|
|馬耳東風||ba-ji-tou-fu||In one ear and out the other. This is a yoji-jukugo.|
|馬子にも衣装||Mago nimo ishou||Anyone can look good if they are dressed up nicely.|
|人間万事塞翁が馬||Ningen banji saiou ga uma||You never know what good or bad may come of any event. fortune is unpredictable and changeable.|
The last expression is a reference to the Chinese parable of an old man (Sai-ou) whose horse runs away. If you watched “Charlie Wilson’s War” (featuring Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffmann) you may recall a permutation of the story being told near the end of the movie.
A more traditional telling goes like this:
One day, Sai-ou’s prized horse ran away. The other villagers lamented the loss, but Sai-ou was stoic and said: “We’ll see”.
Soon thereafter, the horse returned with another handsome mare in tow. The villagers congratulated Sai-ou on his good luck, but Sai-ou was circumspect, saying simply: “We’ll see”.
A little later on, Sai-ou’s son was riding the new mare when he was thrown off, breaking his leg. The villagers again commiserated with Sai-ou, who was guarded and simply said: “We’ll see”.
The next week, the men of Sai-ou’s village were all conscripted to fight in the war in which many perished; all except for Sai-ou’s son, that is, who could not fight because of his broken leg.