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Not that many things happen to the chest. Our fingers get papercuts, our toes get stubbed, and I’m forever bruising my thighs. But unless one plays American football, rugby, or the like, our chests don’t get whacked around as our limbs do.
In Japanese, though, any number of things can happen to the chest. Take the issue of being hit:
胸を打つ (mune o utsu: to be emotionally moving)
chest, heart + to strike
In Japanese, striking the chest can provoke tears, and not of physical pain. We’re a world away from the rough-and-tumble world of macho sports! In fact, we’re actually talking about the heart here.
As we saw last week, expressions about 胸 (KYŌ, mune, muna-: chest, breast, thorax, inmost heart, mind, feelings) can be strictly anatomical on the one hand or figurative and feeling-based on the other. Today’s crop of 胸 words is almost entirely figurative and feeling-based. From this batch of words, we find that the chest/heart can be involved in a wide range of things—so many, in fact, that one wonders what it can’t do. Try to figure that out in the following quiz. (Must be why they call it a “figurative” expression!)
Find the Oddball
According to the breakdown of words, 胸 can be linked to all but one of the following verbs. Which is the oddball?
To block the answer, I’ll share two chesty expressions of interest:
万感胸に迫る (bankan mune ni semaru: to have a thousand emotions crowd in on one)
10,000 + feelings + heart + to close in on
Hmm, according to the kanji, 10,000 emotions are at work! Perhaps the translator found that overwhelming and reduced the count to 1,000.
胸に一物 (mune ni ichimotsu: machination, secret plan, plot; trick up one’s sleeve) chest + one + thing
English speakers believe that tricks reside in the sleeve. But in Japanese, they’re located in the chest! Not the chest pocket, but the actual chest. How do they find their way out? Note that 一物 (ichimotsu) means “plot; ulterior motive; secret intention.”
OK, now let’s get back to those chests or hearts in motion. But wait…. One more detour. This phrase vaguely reminded me of a lyric, so I looked it up and found this information: “Hearts In Motion is the ninth studio album by Australian soft rock band Air Supply released in 1986. The album was a serious step down in the band’s popularity.” Any flashback to the ’80s music scene is almost certain to make my stomach turn, so let’s swiftly return to the point at hand.
The false answer was d. As far as I can tell, the 胸 cannot fly. Now, let’s see what’s going on with the actual hearts in motion (eek!).
The Chest Dances!
胸躍る (muneodoru: heart-pounding, exciting) heart + to dance, jump
We say our hearts “pound.” But in Japanese, the heart jumps or dances! Do you remember how, back in April, I introduced both the word 本郷 (hongō: student quarter of a city, main + village) and Nakamura Sakuo, a haiku expert? He sometimes advises Alberto (our resident haiku calendar maker) on haiku translation, and at one point they exchanged emails in English about the nuances of 本郷. Sakuo-san wrote that the youthful energy of the 本郷 in both Oxford, England, and Boston, Massachusetts, had made his “body and soul begin to dance.” I think that’s wonderful! If Sakuo-san had written in Japanese, he might have used 胸躍る.
The Chest Swims!
胸泳 (kyōei: breaststroke) chest + to swim
In this case, I think the chest (or breast!) swims, not the heart. And we’re talking here about something anatomical, rather than something heartfelt (though the heart certainly feels the exertion of swimming!). This is a rare compound. The Japanese usually refer to the breaststroke as 平泳ぎ (hiraoyogi: flat + swimming) or more casually as 蛙泳ぎ (kaeruoyogi: frog + swimming), because a frog swims as if doing the breaststroke! Cute!
胸に浮かぶ (mune ni ukabu: to come to mind; to pop into one’s head) feelings + to float, rise to the surface
What’s floating here? Not the chest, and not the heart. Rather, feelings float inside the heart. Whereas English speakers have things pop into their heads, Japanese speakers refer to the feelings popping up in their chests or hearts!
The Heart Folds Up on Itself!
胸に畳む (mune ni tatamu: to keep information to oneself)
heart + to fold
If you have information that you want to conceal (maybe a juicy secret!), you can fold your heart up like a tatami (畳) mat. I don’t think tatami mats actually fold up very easily, but it doesn’t matter, because 畳む means “to fold,” quite apart from tatami mats.
The Heart Calculates!
胸算 (munazan: mental arithmetic, expectation) heart + to calculate
English speakers have the sense that calculations happen in the brain. Could it be, though, that they happen in the heart? Depends what’s being calculated. If math is indeed at stake, I have to think that the calculating happens in the brain. But if you’re planning and plotting on ways to snag the love of your life or a strategy for destroying someone, doesn’t some of that activity happen in the heart?
A native speaker tells me that 胸算 or 胸算用 (munazanyō, which is synonymous) is usually a calculation of what you’ll get if you’re lucky. The expression means “wishful thinking,” more or less. Because wishful thinking is heavily dominated by feelings, he says, it’s the heart that performs 胸算用. He provides this sample sentence:
Obama no munazanyō wa, Hirarī Kurinton wa motto hayaku haiboku o mitomeru darō to iu mono datta.
Obama’s expectation was that Hillary Clinton would admit defeat much earlier.
Strange breakdown, right? We talked about the etymology of 北 a few months ago, including its nuance of “fleeing.” I think that applies here.
認める (mitomeru: to recognize)
The Chest Stretches!
胸を張る (mune o haru: to throw out one’s chest; to be puffed up with pride) chest + to be stretched
English speakers say that the heart swells with pride. Only in Japanese can the heart “stretch.” In English, that might mean that one has spread oneself too thin among a bevy of lovers!
Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz!