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Advanced Japanese Lesson:長い信号

「えっ? どこどこ? 何メートルくらい?」
ある日、知人は後部座席に娘を乗せて運転していました。広い道路を横断するために信号待ちをしていたのですが、その信号機がなかなか変わりません。そこで、前述のように呟いたのです。 この場合、「長い」は時間的な長さを示しています。つまり、「この信号機は赤から青に変わるまでの時間が長い」と言いたいのですね。しかし、娘さんは「信号機の横幅が長い」と誤解して驚いたのです。


例えば、「気が長い人」という表現。あなたはどのような人物を想像しますか? 「気」すなわち「気持ち」は目に見えませんから、長さを測ることは不可能です。ただ、時間的に長い、ゆとりがあってのんびりしている様子をイメージすることはできるでしょう。だから、「気が長い人」とは「焦らず、ゆったりとしている人、悠長な人」という意味になるのです。


さて、「長い手紙」と表現された場合は? もちろん、便箋が横あるいは縦に長いのではなく、文章量が多い手紙を意味していますね。
“This is a long light.”
“Oh? Where, where? About how many meters?”
This is a conversation between a friend of mine and her daughter.

One day, my friend was driving with her daughter in the back seat. They were waiting for a light at a crossing, and the light didn’t change for a while. And she muttered the above phrase. In this case, “long” refers to time. In other words, “this light takes some time to change from red to green” is what it means. However, the daughter mistook this as “the width of the light is long” and was surprised.

Also, “long” has an abstract use as well.

For example, the expression, “a person with a long ki”. What kind of person do you imagine? Ki that is “feeling” cannot be seen with the eye, so it’s impossible to measure it. But, you can imagine having a lot of time, and being very relaxed. Therefore, “a person with a long ki” has the meaning of a person who “isn’t in a hurry, is very relaxed, and is easy-going”.

Now, how about the idiom, “to look with long eyes.” Are the eyes long enough to be sticking out from the sides? … It’s a little unrealistic. This has the meaning “to not decide there on the spot, and to wait patiently for something better in the future.”

How about if somebody says, “long letter”? This of course does not mean that the width or length of the stationary  is long, but that there’s a lot written in the letter.