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Lesson Transcript

さくら: さくらです。
Peter: Peter here.
さくら: 四字熟語
Peter: Lesson 13. Are You Getting Desperate? Sounds interesting.
さくら: そうですね。
Peter: Now this is a combination of the two Japanese idiomatic phrases we will be looking at today. Just to recap, in this series, each lesson we look at two Japanese idiomatic phrases.
さくら: はい
Peter: And what’s really interesting here is, we kind of look at the logic behind the phrases and in doing so, this really helps you understand how Japanese people think. We got an email that was quite interesting. One of our listeners.
さくら: Yes.
Peter: Actually used one of the phrases with a Japanese person.
さくら: Really?
Peter: And he didn’t know the phrase.
さくら: 本当ですか
Peter: So the listener actually taught….
さくら: Yes.
Peter: His Japanese friends.
さくら: Oh impressive.
Peter: They were kind of blown away like where did you learn this stuff?
さくら: Yes そうですか カッコイイですね
Peter: So today we are going to look at two more.
さくら: Yes.

Lesson focus

Peter: Sakura san, what do we have first?
さくら: 絶体絶命
Peter: To have one’s back against the wall. One more time nice and slow.
さくら: ぜったいぜつめい 絶体絶命
Peter: Now we are going to look at each character. Sakura san, what’s the first character?
さくら: 絶
Peter: Discontinue.
さくら: 体
Peter: Body.
さくら: 絶
Peter: Discontinue.
さくら: 命
Peter: Life. Discontinue body, discontinue life.
さくら: すごい
Peter: Now both of them indicate that one’s body or life is pushed into a corner and then one’s luck has run out.
さくら: Uh…
Peter: So when we put them together, we have
さくら: 絶体絶命
Peter: And it means to be in a critical situation from which there seems to be no way out of danger or difficulty.
さくら: そう。
Peter: Now, is this one used quite a bit?
さくら: Umm I think so. I often hear it on TV and not so much maybe in our daily life. I hope not.
Peter: Okay let’s take a look at the usage. Now it’s often used as a pronominal modifier. So pronominal modifier, basically it comes before a noun and in between the noun and the phrase, there is the possessive particle
さくら: の
Peter: So it would look something like this.
さくら: 絶体絶命の
Peter: Something, something and noun such as danger or to be in a pinch, pinch are quite often used with this expression.
さくら: Yes.
Peter: So for example, we have
さくら: 絶体絶命の危機
Peter: A desperate situation. It’s also used with a katakana word.
さくら: ピンチ
Peter: Pinch. To be in a pinch. And this is actually an interesting word, kind of a bit off the topic but used by itself to mean that someone is in a bind.
さくら: そう、そうですね。
Peter: Sakura san, お願いします
さくら: ピンチだ!
Peter: I am in a pinch, I am in a bind. Now it’s also used another way following the topic marking particle は or if someone is driven into a corner, you can say
さくら: 絶体絶命だ
Peter: For example,
さくら: なつこさんは絶体絶命だ
Peter: So Natsuko san is in a very tough situation.
さくら: Yes.
Peter: Yes. Let’s take a look at some sample sentences that I think will make this phrase easier to understand. Sakura san お願いします
さくら: 山で道に迷った。もう水も食べ物もない。これは絶体絶命の危機だ
Peter: I am lost in the mountains and I have no more water or food. It’s a desperate situation. How about another one?
さくら: ピッチャーが怪我をしてしまった。僕たちは絶体絶命だ
Peter: Our pitcher got injured. We had our backs are against the wall and one more.
さくら: 彼女に嘘がばれてしまったよ。もう絶体絶命だ
Peter: Don’t know about this one. My girlfriend figured out I lied. I am in a real bind now.
さくら: まずいですね  Not good.
Peter: Not good at all. Okay let’s take a look at the second phrase.
さくら: 前代未聞
Peter: Without precedent, unprecedented, the unheard of. I like this one. One more time nice and slow.
さくら: ぜんだいみもん 前代未聞
Peter: Now let’s take a look at each of the four characters. Sakura san, the first character please.
さくら: 前
Peter: Before.
さくら: 代
Peter: Generation.
さくら: 未
Peter: Not yet.
さくら: 聞
Peter: Here. So let’s take a look at the two two character kanji compounds inside of the four character kanji compound. So what is the first one?
さくら: 前代
Peter: This means the last generation or the past. Second one.
さくら: 未聞
Peter: This means to have not been heard of before. So something that hasn’t been heard of before by a previous generation. So when we put them together, we have
さくら: 前代未聞
Peter: And it means something so rare or too rare that it hasn’t been heard of before by the previous generation. Logically it makes sense.
さくら: Umm yes.
Peter: Unprecedented, no one’s heard of it.
さくら: そう。
Peter: Now how about usage?
さくら: It’s often used in the same way as the previous one.
Peter: So a pronominal modifier basically coming before the noun.
さくら: Yes.
Peter: And we also find the particle の
さくら: 前代未聞の
Peter: For example,
さくら: 前代未聞の事件
Peter: Unprecedented affairs. So when something unprecedented happens, you can say
さくら: Something, something は前代未聞だ japanesepod101は前代未聞ですね
Peter: Japanesepod101.com is unprecedented.
さくら: はい
Peter: 良いですね  I like that one.
さくら: Umm…
Peter: How about some more sample sentences?
さくら: この映画は前代未聞の大ヒット作品だ
Peter: This movie is an unprecedented hit. How about another one?
さくら: 総理大臣が一日で辞任した。これは前代未聞だ
Peter: The prime minister resigned after one day in office. It’s unprecedented. Not really in Japan.
さくら: そうですね。
Peter: 1週間ぐらい平均ですね
さくら: それはないです。
Peter: It’s about one week average.
さくら: Not that short.
Peter: And of course, this was recorded in early September and the former prime minister just quit.
さくら: Yes just few days ago ね
Peter: I remember seeing something that had Fidel Castro. He was in power since like right after the 1950s all the way up until recently and they compared that with Japan.
さくら: Umm…
Peter: And there was like 40 or 30 people.
さくら: Ah yes そうですね。
Peter: Change is good.
さくら: Umm.
Peter: Okay and one more example.
さくら: 主役の俳優が途中で交代するとは、前代未聞だ
Peter: It’s totally without precedent for the actor playing the lead role to be replaced midway through the performance たまにありますね
さくら: たまーにね。
Peter: たまーに
さくら: たまーにありますね
Peter: Okay Sakura san,
さくら: はい
Peter: Which do you like?
さくら: 前代未聞ですね。絶体絶命はちょっと
Peter: 私もです And what’s the frequency of these if you had to give some insight?
さくら: そうですね。前代未聞 is often used in advertisements like movie advertisements, we hear a lot of 前代未聞 絶体絶命 is also often used on TV.


Peter: So unprecedented is a really nice marketing phrase. I am going to have to remember that one. Okay don’t forget to stop by japanesepod101.com and pick up the PDF. Inside the PDF, we have the kanji. It’s very important to see the kanji because….
さくら: Yes I think so.
Peter: It’s again – it’s very logical. So stop by and check that out. That’s going to do for today.
さくら: またね


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