Uri Kotoba ni Kai Kotoba (売り言葉に買い言葉 - Tit for Tat)

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May 14, 2019 22:42 English essay
Uri Kotoba ni Kai Kotoba

Have you ever exchanged harsh words with someone?

Such an act is called 'uri kotoba ni kai kotoba' (売り言葉に買い言葉) in Japanese.

Since 'uri' (売り) means "selling," 'kotoba' (言葉) means "word," and 'kai' (買い) means "buying," the literal meaning of this phrase is "selling words and buying words."

In Japanese, to pick a quarrel/fight is expressed 'kenka wo uru' (喧嘩を売る - literally means "to sell a quarrel/fight"), and to take up the quarrel/fight is expressed as 'kenka wo kau' (喧嘩を買う - literally means "to buy a quarrel/fight").

That is to say, 'uri kotoba' (売り言葉) means "words that cause a fight," and 'kai kotoba' (買い言葉) means "words that take up a fight."

This phrase can be translated as "tit for tat" in English.
売り言葉に買い言葉

誰かに喧嘩腰な言葉をかけられ、相応の乱暴な言葉を返したことはありますか?

そのようなことを、日本語で「売り言葉に買い言葉」と言います。

「売り」は "selling"、「言葉」は "word"、「買い」は "buying" を意味するので、「売り言葉に買い言葉」の文字どおりの意味は "selling words and buying words" となります。

日本語では、わざと喧嘩を仕掛けることを「喧嘩を売る」、売られた喧嘩に応じることを「喧嘩を買う」と表現します。

すなわち、「売り言葉」は「喧嘩を仕掛けるような言葉」、「買い言葉」は「売り言葉に喧嘩腰で応じる言葉」というわけです。

英語では "tit for tat" のように表現されます。