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Like a carp on a chopping board

A carp on the chopping board

In August, we continue our linguistic journey with the Idioms from Around the Globe series. This month we visit Japan and introduce our guest blogger, conference interpreter, translator, voiceover artist and Japanese pronunciation coach for actors, Rie Hiramatsu. I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with Rie on the “Your life in 5 minutes” feature of her podcast series.

 Manaita no ue no koi (ma-na-eta-no -oo-eh-no-ko-yee)

Language: Japanese

In English, please! A carp on the chopping board

What it means: Being stuck and having no control over one’s fate

Why carp? The idiom describes a situation where you can’t go either forwards or backwards. We use this phrase in sentences such as “I’m like a carp on the chopping board (no mercy over my fate).” Why a carp? I’m not entirely sure. I suppose it could be any fish, but it may have something to do with the preparation process and the response unique to carp. When this phrase is used, there’s often a feeling of self-mockery to it. Unlike other equivalent expressions, it adds some humour or light-heartedness to even a serious situation. If you said this in English to a Japanese person, I think they’d understand what you were getting at.

Bio: Rie Hiramatsu is a Japanese (A), English (B) freelance conference interpreter, translator, voice-over artist and Japanese pronunciation coach for actors. She specialises in Media, IT, Marketing and Energy. Her clientele includes government agencies, research institutions and private businesses. She is a MITI, MCIL and DPSI (English Law) qualified interpreter.

Are you fascinated by idioms? This article offers some useful background information on what they are and how to use them.

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