Irregular Weekly Four 15: 単刀直入

To stick a sword directly in,
by which I mean to be blunt,
I really love Uniqlo.

A special treat for you this time: a four-character compound that people actually use!

tan tou choku nyuu
one sword straight in

Note that this tantou (単刀) is different from the other tantou (短刀) you might have heard in martial arts contexts. 短刀 literally just means "short [Japanese-style] sword", so over the centuries it's had many different referents, but nowadays (according to Wikipedia) it is used for blades designed along the lines of a katana but less than 30cm in length. (A non-Japanese-style dagger of this length would be called a 短剣.)

But 単刀 is different. Rather than referring to a specific kind of sword, it describes the general phenomenon of a single person wielding a sword. And "straight in" means "from the front, directly into the body". The whole compound, therefore, symbolises the most direct fighting style possible. No tricks, no fancy footwork, no massed armies. Just one sword, straight in. And so it means "to cut to the chase" or "to stop beating around the bush" or "to give it to [someone] straight".

You can use it adverbially, with a に:

tantouchokunyuu ni itta hou ga ii no ka na?
Maybe I should just come out and say it?

Or as an adjective (na- style):

tantouchokunyuu da ne, kimi wa
You don't waste any time on small talk, do you?
tantouchokunyuu na shitsumon desu ga muryou de itadakeru no deshou ka?
Sorry to be so blunt, but is it free of charge?

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I associate 單刀直入 with 單槍匹馬
probably b/c i learned the second one first ... maybe false association - do you know if 單槍匹馬 is also used in japanese? to go fight an army or war alone with one gun and one horse?


Hmm, it's not in my dictionary, but if I change that 單 to the simplified 単, Google turns up a few results. Apparently in Japanese it's pronounced "tansouhitsuba". Thanks! That one also seems like it'll be useable :)


For "cutting to the chase" it's an awfully long word. Rather quirky like "monosyllable" having five syllables. Or does it look longer than it sounds?

By the way, would it be much trouble to include how to pronounce these words you put up? I'm curious, and not too well up on the rules of pronunciation... especially with such a mouthful.


This page might help:


tan tou choku nyuu

is made of four morae:

ta n to u cho ku nyu u

for the vowels, think italian or spanish, it's pretty close. also note that "to u" is actually pronounced like "to o".

try starting slow, then getting faster. remember to make the "n" the same length as everything else, so that "tan" is as long as "tou" is as long as "choku".

ta n to u cho ku nyu u

should be as long as saying "sushi" four times:

su shi su shi su shi su shi

[actually the lengths aren't as perfectly equal "in the wild", but it's a good enough model to start with]

hmm... is that helpful?

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