Translating the Iroha Karuta 4: The Hated Child…

This is the fourth in the series of Japanese proverbs that make up the “Iroha Karuta” card deck.

The original Japanese goes like this:

“Nikumarekko yo ni habakaru.”

This proberb can be directly translated like this:

Hated [Nikumare] child [ko] world [yo] in [ni] spread / gain influence [habakaru].

One English proverbial equivalent that coincides with the idea of “spreading” (or “growing”) suggested by “habakaru” is:

Ill weeds grow apace

However, that is to censure the child rather too much because the original Japanese proverb does not comment on the virtue of the child, merely on his condition of being “hated” and his posture towards the world as a result.

My First Translation

Here’s the digital index card I made for this proverb after I had attempted my first translation:

The Japanese proverb does not state whether it is one particular child or “hated children” in general, so I initially went with the plural to create a “general rule” about “hated children.”

I also attempted to get a translation with a similar number of syllables and a hint of the sound quality of the original although the latter is much more difficult to achieve:

ni-ku-ma-re ko yo ni ha-ba-ka-ru (11)

Ha-ted kids pre-sent a bold face to the world (11)

Here is a “traditional Japanese” version of “presenting a bold face to the world” LOL!

This eccentric samurai (most likely a “ronin” – a roaming “masterless samurai”) has an unconventional style of dress and seems to be attracting attention to himself by waving a broom over his head. Is it a witch’s broom? Is he a harbinger of the “Halloween” craze that is sweeping Japan at the moment?

Once again we must turn to the cheap “Daiso” (dime-store) set of cards to get a better idea of what’s going on with this proverb:

There goes the “hated child” showing a “bold face” to the world and giving a contemptuous “ahem” to the “hin hin” shock-horror of the excited ladies in the background!

It was only when I was creating a title for this blog post and dropped the consonant count that I found some inspiration. I think this is a much better attempt at a translation:

The hated kid outfaces the world.

Yeah! That’s it!


David Hurley