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Advanced Japanese Lesson:手塩にかける

料理に欠かせない調味料の一つに、「塩」があります。塩は、古来から様々な食材をおいしくするだけでなく、「聖なる力を持つもの」として魔よけや病気の治療、美容法にも取り入れられていますね。

今回は、この「塩」を含む慣用句を紹介しましょう。

「手塩に掛ける」という言い回しを聞いたことがありますか?
意味は「まだ相手が何も分からない頃から、いろいろと世話をして大切に育てること」。「手塩に掛けた娘が嫁いでいった」などと使います。

さて、「手塩」とは食卓に添えられた少量の塩の呼び名で、味加減を自分で調えられるように置かれていたそうです。ここから転じて、「自ら面倒をみる」という意味になったのですね。

室町時代の文献に「手塩」の語は見られ、元々は食卓の不浄を払うために小皿に盛って出す習慣から生まれた表現のようです。「手塩に掛ける」という用例は江戸時代から見られるそうですが、別の説もあります。

その一つが、「ぬか漬け」という漬け物を作る際、醗酵が早くすっぱくなりがちなぬかみそ樽に、毎日一つかみの塩とぬかを入れて練り合わせ、おいしい漬け物ができるようにと手入れを怠らない様子から生まれたという説。また一説には、海水から塩を精製するときに丸二日間も煮詰めるという製塩法が、とても重労働かつ手間ひまがかかるので、その様子から生まれたことばであるとのこと。

このように、身近な物はことばとしても表現の中に残りやすいものですね。
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Salt is an essential flavoring for cooking. Not only has it been used to make food delicious since ancient times, but has also been taken in as having “holy powers” and is used to ward of evil, cure illness, as well as for beauty purposes.

This time around, I would like to introduce idioms that contain the word “salt.”
Have you ever heard of the expression teshio ni kakeru, which literally means “to place the table salt ”?

It means “to raise somebody with care from a time when they don’t know anything.” You can say “the teshio ni kaketa daughter married off” or “the daughter that I took care of and raised married off.”

Now, teshio is the small amount of table salt on the dining table, and it’s said it was placed there so that you can adjust the flavor of your own food. From here, it came about to have the meaning of “to take care of by yourself.”

The word “table salt” can be found in literature from the Muromachi period and the expression came from the custom of brushing away any dirtiness off the table and was kept mounted on a small plate. Teshionikakeru can be seen from the Edo period, but there’s also another theory.

One of those theories comes from making the pickle nukamiso, since the rice bran paste ferments fast and becomes sour, you put a small handful of salt and rice bran and you knead it together everyday, and the idea of how maintenance is important to make delicious pickles. Another theory is it comes from the idea that when purifying salt from the ocean water, the method in which you boil for a whole two days takes a lot of time and effort.

In this way, words are easily derived from everyday things around us.

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