Monday, December 22, 2008

Phrase of the Day: Horse from a Gourd!


Today I was talking to some co-workers about how something was unexpected and I was searching for a phrase that meant "out of the blue."

I knew 藪蛇 【やぶへび】but that wouldn't work because it has a negative connotation; it is literally translated as "snake from the thicket/bush," and means something like "stirring up a "hornet's nest" or "bringing unnecessary trouble upon oneself."

(Another good expression using "yabu" is 藪の中 【やぶのなか】 which is "the inability to discern the truth due to conflicting testimony," which is derived from the Akutagawa Ryuunosuke story "In A Grove," upon which the movie Rashomon is based in part. Another good expression is 藪医者, which is literally "doctor from the bush" and means "quack (doctor)"; I have no idea whether this is in common use, but I like it!)

The only other expression that I could think of was 亀毛兎角 【きもうとかく】(lit. "fur on turtles and horns on rabbits"), but she said she had never heard of it. In any event, it probably wouldn't work because it's apparently used as a metaphor for things that do not exist, or to express absurdity.

She then suggested the following, which she assured me was commonly used, or at least readily recognized:

瓢箪から駒 【ひょうたんからこま】 (exp) something very unexpected; something said as a joke actually happening (lit: a colt/chesspiece/spool comes from a gourd)

I like it...and I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to use it, whenever that may be!

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