Friday, April 03, 2009

Japanese 101

How about a Japanese lesson today?

I thought I'd teach you a couple of common phrases heard daily. Actually all three sort of apply to me...

The first. "Neko jita" Literally "Cat's tongue". I have a cat's tongue. This means that I huff and puff when I'm served something very hot (temperature-wise). My friends know that I can't drink the steaming hot tea that they serve me and that I don't mind having my cooled coffee topped off rather than start with a fresh and very hot cup. I guess cats are known for not liking to drink hot milk or something.

If I say, "I think I'll let this cool a bit. I have a cat's tongue." everybody knows what I mean and they smile indulgently. (Children often have a cat's tongue).

How about "Nekoze". This is literally "Cat's back" and it means that the person has rounded shoulders or a slight stoop. I was looking in the mirror the other day and realized how I need to work on my posture a bit more.

Mothers will say "Stand up straight. You are getting a cat's back."

Looks good on the cat, not so good on me.

And a last one. "Neko ni koban". This is translated
"giving a cat a gold coin"
and is similar to the English phrase
"throwing pearls to swine".
Cats won't appreciate what treasures you give them so it is waste of money to ply them with riches. Me too. I'm sort of a recycle shop sort of person and don't have the slightest idea what is good or bad quality, what has cost someone a lot of money or not.

"No sense taking Tanya to that expensive restaurant. It's like giving a cat a gold coin. She doesn't know the difference."

Please review the information. However no test will be given.


Mimi said...

Interesting, Tanya!

Neko ni koban is like me. I too like the thrift shops and things that others treasure because of monetary value don't interest me. I don't like to "put on airs", I'm a simple woman with simple tastes.

Have a great weekend!


Quilt Pixie said...

All interesting phrases... I'm curious, in Neko jita what sort of sound does the "j" make?

MicB said...

love the phrases and meanings, thank you. I also enjoy your quilts.

Connie W said...

Very interesting, Tanya, thanks for the lesson :D

amanda said...

How interesting! I know some Japanese but wasn't familiar with any of those phrases. My favorite Japanese phrase which I used often with my Japanese teacher when I lived in Japan was "migi kara, hidari e." A friend taught it to me after I was complaining that I didn't know how to say "in one ear and out the other" in Japanese :)

Judy H. said...

I can think of worse things than to be compared to cats... ;)

meggie said...

So fascinating! My mother often used the term 'casting pearls before swine', meaning knowledge given to idiots would not be appreciated.
I love your posts. It all shows, the wisdom is the same the world over, but expression differ!

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

fascinating reading here, as always!

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

very fun. love that closeup of Chip

Callie said...

Great photography!
How did you get the cat to hold the coin on his foot?
My daughter wondered if the sayings were regional or widespread throughout Japan.
Thank you for sharing, Tanya.
I enjoy reading all your posts!

Shasta said...

Those are interesting phrases. The Japanese sure have a fascination with cats!

Rae Ann said...


This american needs your phrases in phonic spelling. Rae Ann

The Calico Quilter said...

Are colloquial expressions regional in Japan like they are here? I used the phrase "preaching to the choir" in a post and a reader from the northeast hadn't heard it before. Would a person from another part of the country understand your examples? Also, is that a real coin on Chip's paw? It fascinated me because it had a hole in it and appeared to have dragonflies in the design around the edge. Unless that's some other kind of bug. There's an idea for a post - show us some Japanese coins and paper money. It's always interesting to see currency from another country.

JBH said...


I discovered your blog through a quilting friend of mine...
I lived in Japan for 12 years...and I love reading your blog - natsukashii!

I, too, have "nekojita"...and I love that phrase. I use it all the time here in the U.S.:-)