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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

Thinking about the penchant of English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries for ghost English proverbs--many of which are obscure English quotations that someone scrounged up years ago and forcibly attached to Japanese proverbs--I started wondering how many new, often repeated English proverbs are making it into the dictionaries. For example:
  • No woman can be too rich or too thin.
  • In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.
  • God is in the details.
  • No good deed goes unpunished.
I checked three large, recently published English-Japanese dictionaries, and none listed any of these proverbs. (Another example of a similar expression appears at 83.)

Perhaps my greatest contribution as a lexicographer so far is to have added to a Japanese-English dictionary, as a translation of \l\F, "Different strokes for different folks."
(January 14, 2003)