First Ear? Fat Eyes? Good Mouth? An Introduction to Body Part-Related Expressions in Japanese

Oct 22, 2018


In the Japanese language, there are many “body part-related expressions,” just as there are in English. In English, we all know these figurative expressions, such as “cut off one at the knees,” or “have a big head” (arrogant), or “be a right hand man.” In the Japanese language, however, there are TONS of such figurative expressions, and in the current article, I’d like to introduce some of them, focusing only on the head and face (in later articles, I will work my way down the body to introduce some other body part-related figurative expressions).

 

Face-related expressions

 

Kao ga hiroi (Wide face)

This expression means someone who has many friends, connections or is otherwise influential. Literally, the wider your face, the more people you know, and therefore the more influential you are (I suppose, is the reasoning behind this expression).

 

Suzushi kao wo suru (Have a cool face)

This expression means to be indifferent or nonchalant towards someone or something.

 

Kao wo soroeru (Collects faces)

This expression means everyone (especially important people) has assembled or come together.

 

Kao wo dasu (Produce or provide face)

This expression means, literally, to show your face, to pop in from time to time. For example, I work from home, but once a week, I have to go to my office to “kao wo dasu,” to “show or provide my face.”

 

Kao wo tateru (Stand one’s face)

This expression means to show deference or save face for someone else, to make sure another does not “lose face,” as we say in English.

 

Head-related Expressions

 

Atama ni kuru (Come to your head)

This expression means to be really angry.

 

Atama ga agaranai (Head doesn’t rise)

This expression is a bit complicated. It means to be no match to someone, or to be so indebted to someone, literally, you can’t look him in the eyes (i.e. your head won’t rise).

 

Atama wo kirikaeru (Switch your head)

This expression means to change your way of thinking.

 

Atama wo motageru (Raise your head)

This expression means for something that was hidden or suppressed in your subconscious to pop into your head, or for something to slowly gain strength and come to the forefront.

 

Atama wo yogiru (Cross your head)

This expression means to cross your mind, for something to cross your thoughts or your mind.

 

Ear-related Expressions

 

Nemimi ni mizu da (Water on sleeping ears)

This expression means shocking news, literally, like you were sleeping and someone poured water on your ear, which presumably would really get your attention.

 

Hatsumimi da (First ear)

This expression means this is the first time you’ve heard about something.

 

Mimi ga itai (Ear hurts)

This expression means to be painfully true, to really hit home (this one is not just figurative; if you want to tell your doctor, literally, that you are experiencing pain in your ear, the expression is the same, and from the context, your doctor, hopefully, will understand you mean this in the literal (moji doori in Japanese), and not the figurative (hiyuteki in Japanese), sense).

 

Mimiyori (na hanashi, moshide) (Near the ear)

For example, mimiyori na hanashi means welcome news, or something you want to hear (like an enticing offer or proposal).

 

Mimi ga hayai (Fast ears)

This expression means a person who always knows or learns the latest gossip first.

 

Eye-related expressions

 

Me ga kiku (Eyes work)

This expression means to be a good judge of something, to have discerning eyes.

 

Me wo tsuburu (Crush your eyes)

This expression is just how you say “close your eyes” in Japanese.

 

Me ga koeru (Fat eyes)

This expression means to be a connoisseur for fine art and the like (interestingly, though this is beyond the scope of the present body part-related expressions, koeta shita (fat tongue) means to have a refined or discriminating palette).

 

Me ga saeru (Clear eyes)

This expression means to be wide awake, like in the middle of the night when your nerves are high strung.

 

Me ga chiru (Scattering eyes)

This expression means your eyes are all over the place, looking at many things, for example, when you are nervous and not calm.

 

Mouth-related Expressions

 

Kuchi ni awanai (Not matching the mouth)

This expression just means you don’t like something (food).

 

Kuchi ga umai (Good mouth)

This expression means to be a slick speaker, to have, as we say in English, a silver tongue.

 

Kuchi ga omoi (Heavy Mouth)

This expression means to be taciturn, someone who doesn’t say much.

 

Kuchi ga karui (Light mouth)

This expression is the opposite of the preceding one.

 

Kuchi ga katai (Hard mouth)

This expression means a person who can keep a secret.

 

In the current article, I introduced the five body parts of head, face, eyes, ears, and mouth, but there are many other such expressions related to the general area of the human head (for example, tongue-related expressions, teeth-related expressions, neck-related expressions). In a later article, I will introduce some of these along with body part-related expressions for areas other than the human head.

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