• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post


    Having just sniggered at Westerners who gravely drop Oriental wisdom, I will now take the opportunity to discuss (briefly, at least for me) one of my favorite Japanese proverbs. Hypocritical, perhaps, but then, I own the place.

    What brought it to mind was a Proverbs-quoting comment on this post at Dean’s. The post links to an article called “How to Seem Smarter,” and though the basic tone is tongue-in-cheek, there is a good deal of truth to it.

    Anyway, the Japanese proverb I’m thinking of is this:


    nou aru taka ha tsume wo kakusu

    “The astute hawk keeps its talons hidden.”

    Now, of course, there are other Japanese proverbs that more explicitly admonish you to keep your trap shut to avoid making a fool of yourself. This one, however, has always been one of my favorites because, for one thing, it covers varieties of show-offiness besides just babbling. It’s like the German saying, “Always be more than you appear” (which, as Miss Manners once pointed out, “predates the invention of the Mercedes-Benz paid for on installments”).

    Another thing about it is the sensuality of the language. Except for the first word, which has a long-vowelled pronunciation borrowed from Chinese, the entire sentence is composed of native Japanese words. They flow along rapidly because of the alternating consonant-vowel structure and because most of the consonants themselves are unvoiced: k, t, ts, s. The sentence is sibilant and slightly menacing when you say it–pronounced conversationally, it comes out like noh’arutakawatsumewokox. You can imagine a hawk sitting in a tree, very still and observant, with the only sound the rustling of the leaves while he decides what to do next.

    7 Responses to “肉食鳥”

    1. Dean Esmay says:

      It’s Greek to me….

    2. John says:

      Certainly better than the nail proverb.

    3. Eneils Bailey says:

      Does this mean I should not belch, grunt, or fart while perched in a tree?

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      You’re asking to get pounded down, there, John. 😉
      Eneils, I guess that depends on whether you plan to win your next hawk-like scuffle. Then again, as long as you keep your talons retracted, you can’t say you weren’t following advice.

    5. Eneils Bailey says:

      Thanks for the clarification to my question. After thinking about it, you are correct. An aquaintance, friend, or adversary would consider my digestive annoyances less profound than flashing my talons. Anyway, the Sheriff’s Department took my talon away, said it was not registered. Now I have an unregistered Saturday night talon.
      I called and chatted with Vanna White about the consonant-vowel structure. She suggested I think about Alabama. Told her I preferred not to do that. I got fleeced at the “Loving Touch Massage Parlor” near Mobile a couple of years ago.

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, just don’t take your talon and bury it in the ground to await your lord’s return. We all know what happens when you do that.