At eikaiwa (English conversation class) last night, only Tanabe-san (the man who organizes the class) and Kenji (the teacher at Yakawa Elementary) were there, so instead of playing a game with the proverb cards I'd borrowed from Tane-sensei, we just talked about English and Japanese proverbs.
After looking over the list of English proverbs, Kenji said, "I think there are more positive English proverbs than Japanese."
"Oh, I'm sure they just picked the positive ones for these cards." So I looked through my notebook for some proverbs I'd remembered on my own. "Like this one: 'The lesser of two evils.' This is a saying we use when we have to make a decision between two bad things. Some people said it during the last U.S. election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. 'Bush... Kerry... I'll pick the lesser of two evils.' In fact, some people say that about every election." They thought that was funny.
"Or this one: 'Once bitten, twice shy.'" I bit my hand to show "bitten," and said, "If something or someone hurts me once, I will be careful around it two times. I mean, not exactly. For example, if I pet my neighbor's dog, and the dog bites me, then I will stay away from that dog for a long time."
"Ah," said Kenji. "We have a similar proverb. 'Atsumono ni korite namasu o fuku.'"
Tanabe-san laughed. "Have you heard it before?" I asked him. He hadn't. Kenji explained: "It means I burn my mouth with hot food, so next time I blow on cold food." He looked it up in his electronic dictionary (many of which contain idioms), then laughed and showed Tanabe-san. "What is it?" I said.
He showed me the screen. Next to "Atsumono ni korite namasu o fuku" was written, "Once bitten, twice shy."