By Jackson Pietsch
Hypothesis: 四字熟語 [Yojijukugo] are awesome!
Background: You can pack a good deal of meaning into one kanji. Imagine what you can do with four! Some of these four-kanji compounds come from classical Chinese expressions, while others are native to Japan, having arisen after the split between the languages. Some enjoy everyday usage. You may well have heard 一生懸命 [isshoukenmei], meaning “with all one’s might” or “as hard as one can”; the old favorite 一石二鳥 [issekinichou], meaning “two birds with one stone”; or maybe 焼肉定食 [yakinikuteishoku], meaning “a set meal with grilled meat.” But they go way, way beyond this.
Variables: There are a lot of yojijukugo. Maybe not all of them are awesome. It happens.
Materials list: Google
Experimental procedure: Read a bunch of yojijukugo and judge whether they were awesome.
Data analysis: Here are some of my favorites:
- 悪鬼羅刹 [akirassetsu]: “man-eating fiend”
- 一番風呂 [ichibanburo]: “taking a bath before anyone else” or “fresh-drawn bath”
- 一視同仁 / 一視同人 [isshidoujin]: “equality without discrimination” or “loving every human being with impartiality”
- 一唱三嘆/一倡三歎 [isshousantan]: “one reading (of a poem aloud) leaves one with ceaseless sighs of admiration”
Conclusion: Yes. Awesome.
Further reading: Tofugu and the Japan Times have both done pieces on the topic (somewhat) recently. This behemoth is drier than either of the above articles, but dauntingly comprehensive. Find some favorites and challenge yourself to drop one into your daily conversation!
Wanna share your nihongo knowledge? Send us your favorite slang, dialectal phrases and study habits to firstname.lastname@example.org