Dealing with fools – Japanese phrases, part three

by Stratton Craig

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In my research into Japanese idioms and phrases, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of ways to describe and insult an idiot. I’ll take you through some of these in this, the third installment of my series on Japanese phrases. You can take a look back at part one and part two, too.
The Japanese word for ‘idiot’ is ‘baka’ – and the kanji for ‘baka’ combines the symbols for ‘horse’ and ‘deer’ (馬鹿).
There are plenty of other words to describe someone who might not be the sharpest tool in the shed – and that’s surprisingly a phrase that doesn’t translate into Japanese all that well. You can, however, use any and all of the following:

  • Coward – pulling your bowels out / ‘funuke’ (腑抜け)
  • Half-wit – diluted fool / ‘usunoro’ (うすのろ) or ‘usubaka’
  • Nonsensical – rude and foreign / ‘koutou’ (候等)
  • Blockhead – basin darkness / ‘bonkura’  (盆暗)
  • Slow – warmth / ‘nuku’ (温)
  • Simpleton – two rods (presumably for their back) / ‘nihonbou’ (日本棒)
  • Dolt – a dull man / ‘nibui otoko’ (鈍い男)

It’s also said in Japan that ‘a born fool is never cured’. The phrase ‘baka ni tsukeru kusuri ha nai’ means ‘there’s no medicine that works on an idiot’.
I reckon that’s more or less the same thing.
We’ll continue to take a different tack in every blog post of this series – the next one will focus on some phrases you’re more likely to recognise. If you would like to know more about our translation services (we can help with Japanese and over 40 other languages too) please get in touch with us today.

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