Aug 25, 2005

Kotowaza of the day: Beauty, thy name might also be crow

Japanese:
烏百度洗っても鷺にはならぬ

Romanized:
Karasu hyakudo aratte-mo sagi-ni-wa naranu

Meaning of Japanese:
No matter how much a crow washes, it will never become a (white) heron

English equivalents:
A crow is never the whiter for often washing

4 Comments:

At 8/26/2005 1:29 PM, Anonymous Bellman said...

I've never heard of that english equivalent. How about,

"You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the girl."

 
At 8/28/2005 11:56 PM, Blogger eBohn said...

I think the English equivalent was actually from Danish or something. But hey, how many of our aphorisms were originally created in English? Maybe I should say "Western equivalent"?

BTW, I like your example and will try to find a kotowaza for it, but this one, as I understand it, aims more for locating one's own inner beauty.

 
At 8/29/2005 1:17 PM, Anonymous Bellman said...

Really? I don't quite get an "inner beauty" message from your translation OR your English (or Danish) equivalent. Both seem more along the lines of "you can't change something into something else." If so, the English equivalent would be "lipstick on a pig."

 
At 8/30/2005 10:40 PM, Blogger eBohn said...

I was on the verge of saying I wish you would show this much interest in all the kotowaza, and then you commented on the next one. Thanks! I can always use more helpful ideas.

Now, to the crow at hand. You don't get an "inner beauty" message from the translation, and neither do I. But who knows where these kotowaza come from. Maybe this is the punchline of some Confucian joke, or an old Shinto fable boiled down to the bare imagery. Your guess is as good as mine. (Well, maybe not as good...) But the book that I use as my primary source - a compilation of kotowaza and explanations in Japanese - says something like this:
"Rather than exerting yourself in vain to become something you're not, it is better to make the most of your own strengths. Nature [and, by extension, your natural self] is beautiful. Make-up, etc. is not only unnatural, it may also make one ugly."

But hey, that's one interpretation. At least I would say it's a subclass of "you can't change something into something else"

and... lipstick on a pig??

 

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