• Jason Khoh

Intriguing Idiom!


The other day I found a four-character idiom beautifully written on a shikishi (色紙) - a fancy square-shaped card often used for poetry, calligraphy, or to house the signature of someone famous. I have decided to not disclose the name of the author of this particular idiom - oh, the intrigue!


But even more intriguing is the actual meaning of this idiom. Being the curious monkey I am, I decided to hop on Google to see if there was an official meaning in either English of Japanese. To my surprise, there wasn’t - the plot thickens!


Now, it’s not like the characters used in the idiom are particularly tricky. The meaning of the first two, 一黙(ichi moku)is ‘a moment of silence’, while the meaning of the last two, 万言(mangen or bangen)is ‘many words’.


Based on this, it has two potential meanings: ‘a moment of silence speaks volumes’ or ‘silence is better than saying too much’


Personally I tend to lean towards the latter possibility, but what do you think? Or is there another potential meaning I didn’t think of?

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