Translating the Iroha Karuta 6: Unskilled Speakers Say Too Much

Well, the title of this post says it all so I’d better not go on for too long about this, the sixth proverb in the Japanese Iroha Karuta series…

The Japanese proverb goes like this:

Heta no naga dangi ( 下手の長談義 )

  • Heta = unskillful
  • no = genetive (of / belonging to / ‘s)
  • naga = long
  • dangi = speech / discussion

To make grammatical sense of it in English we need to turn it around so that it reads,

long speech of the unskillful

That is a literal translation, but I decided to turn it into a full sentence by rendering it:

Unskilled speakers say too much

I’m quite pleased that the syllable count of my sentence equals that of the original.

This is another one of those proverbs that affirm the shared feeling of a common experience. In this case it is that feeling of being a captive audience at a wedding, a business function, a school event or what have you, while some dull fellow drones on and on. That can be a common experience in a ceremonial culture such as that of Japan, so it is no surprise to find such a proverb in the Iroha collection.

The Daiso (dime store) deck of Iroha Karuta nicely expresses the feeling of the audience when subjected to a lengthy speech by a speaker who lacks eloquence:

David Hurley
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