144 - Cat pictures! (Oh, also some cat-related idioms)

Just because I am a dog lover doesn’t mean I hate cats. I mean, why can’t you like both? My only problem with cats is that every time I pet one, I can’t stop sneezing, and I end up looking like I just watched the last episode of Firefly. (Goddamn it Joss!)

But this isn’t their fault. Cats are good people.

I think love of cats must come instinctively to the Japanese. I don’t know if it’s just a culture of not being able to have huge dogs in their tiny apartments, or if the cat’s cool temperament is easy to deal with, but in Japan, cats are everywhere. From cat-shaped goods and treats to stray cats in the streets. And even cat cafes.

In the language as well, you will find a ton of idioms and expressions related to these furry little friends. Here are some of my favorite cat-related Japanese:

猫に小判
ねこ に こばん
Pearls before swine
Literally: “cat + に + coin”

This first one seems a bit confusing because its literal meaning is giving a cat a coin. The word 小判(こばん) is an old coin in Japanese, but don’t worry too much about memorizing it. I have never seen it used other than in this expression. Now you might have heard of the expression “pearls before swine” before, but I am guessing most of you went “wait, what does that mean again?” So for your convenience I have included a quote from our trusty Wikipedia (warning, it’s about to get biblical up in here):

"Pearls before swine" and "casting pearls"

refer to a quotation from Matthew 7:6 in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount:
"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces."

So essentially, let’s translate this as, “such a waste.” Giving pearls to pigs is stupid, because they won’t appreciate them at all. Nor will cats appreciate coins. Now that it is much easier to understand:

裏庭にプールがある?
そりゃ猫に小判だよ。
だってカナダに住んでるんでしょ?
うらにわ に ぷーる が ある? 
そりゃ ねこ に こばん だよ。
だって かなだ に すんでる んでしょ?

You have a pool in the backyard?
That is such a waste.
You are living in Canada.

Literally: “back garden + に + pool + が + have + that is + cat + に + coin + だよ + yet + Canada + に + living + んでしょ?”

猫ばば
ねこばば
Pick pocketing
Literally: “cat + bullshit/shit/feces”

This one is fun because I always think of the meaning as “the bullshit that cats do,” which is apparently stealing. This word can be used for simple pick-pocketing, or even more serious crimes of stealing money like embezzlement. Maybe this is why I have a dog…

どうして日本では物が落ちていても誰もネコババしないのか?
どうして にほん では もの が おちていても だれも ねこばば しない のか?
Why is it that when something is dropped in Japan, nobody steals it?
Literally: “why + Japan + では + thing + が + dropped + anybody + steal + don’t + のか”

猫の手も借りたい
ねこ の て も かりたい
So busy I can use anyone’s help
Literally: “cat + の + hand + も + want to borrow”

This expression literally means that you are so busy you could even use a cat’s paw to help you out. I guess this means cats aren’t very dexterous with their hands, which I don’t know about because I have seen about a thousand videos on the internet of cats pushing stuff off of counter tops.

But anyway you can use it like this:

休暇中は猫の手も借りたいほど忙しくなる。
きゅうかちゅう は ねこ の て も かりたい ほど いそがしく なる。
During the holidays, we get so busy we could use anybody’s help.
Literally: “holiday + during + は + cat + の + hand + want to borrow + ほど + busy + become”

猫の額
ねこ の ひたい
As small as a cat’s forehead
Literally: “cat + の + forehead”

I mean, I know cats have small foreheads, but this one is weird. It is a description of a small or narrow space.

このアパートは好きだけど、猫の額ほどの庭だね。
この あぱーと は すき だ けど、 ねこ の ひたい ほど の にわ だね。
I like this apartment, but the garden is really small.
Literally: “this + apartment + は + like + だけど + cat + の + forehead + ほど + の + garden だね”

猫舌
ねこじた
Can’t handle hot food/liquids
Literally: “cat + tongue”

This is my favorite, and one that I use all the time. This expression, literally “cat tongue” means that you are sensitive to hot liquids or foods. So if you have to wait for at least 10 min. to drink that scalding hot Starbucks beverage because your mouth is sensitive, then this is a word you can use. It is amazing there is a word to describe people like us in Japanese. ^.^

私は猫舌なんです。
わたし は ねこじた なんです。
I can’t handle hot food or drinks.
Literally: “I + は + cat tongue + なんです”


Now that I look at these expressions, they aren’t very friendly to cats. Maybe the Japanese don’t like cats after all.
I mean, if you only look at these descriptions, they are bad with money, unhelpful, have small foreheads, and can’t drink hot liquids. I don’t know about y’all but this seems like discrimination to me. Like I said before, I think cats are good people.

This lesson was written by Cassy L., a guest contributor:

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