This time, we’re taking a look at a few Japanese idioms. The three idioms in the opening paragraph all share a similar structure. They mention a noun, which happens to be a part of the body, followed by a verb that isn’t normally associated with it. You hear the same patterns in several English idioms, like when people say, “My heart sank!” to express a feeling of disappointment.
Now that I know what a “rokurokubi” is, I don’t think I’ll forget 首を長くする! It sounds like a more colorful way to say 楽しみにしている or that you’re really looking forward to something.
I have to admit, I was surprised when I first heard this expression, but now that football season has started, I think it makes a lot of sense. At the end of just about every play, someone smacks someone else on the butt to encourage or congratulate them! We have a few “butt centric” expressions in English too, like when someone is being a “pain in the butt“, which might cause them to receive a “swift kick in the butt“. I think the English idiom “to light a fire under someone” comes closest in meaning to お尻をたたく, though. It conveys a sense of stirring someone to action.
The expression “dancing heart” creates a strong image that makes this idiom easy to remember. Both 心 and 胸 seem to show up in a lot of Japanese idioms, likely because the heart is considered the center of emotions, and it resides in the chest. English has plenty of heart related expressions as well, but none that involve dancing. “My heart leapt” seems like a good match, as it expresses a sudden burst of happiness and excitement.
One of the interesting things about learning idioms is that they tend to create pictures in your mind. Having a visual link to words and phrases can make them easier to remember.