Japanese Idiom: Pour Water into the Ear

Photo Credit: Maʝicdölphin

Photo Credit: Maʝicdölphin

Here’s another funny Japanese idiom – to pour water into the ear of someone sleeping.

Can you guess what it means? It probably means you need to find better friends :)

Nemimi ni mizu – 寝耳に水 (ねみみにみず)

Meaning: Water into the ear of someone sleeping

This idiom is a difficult one to guess the meaning of, but it is slightly similar to the English idiom of pouring cold water on someone. To pour water into the ear of someone sleeping basically means to get a surprise right out of the blue, or to be shocked with new information.

I guess you could say it’s something you didn’t see coming. If someone poured water into my ear while I was asleep, I would certainly be surprised. Of course, what I did to that person next they would also not see coming :)

Here’s an example sentence from the book 2001 Japanese and English Idioms:

Joshi ga totsuzen kaisha o yameta to iu nyusu wa, nemimi ni mizu deshita.


The news that my boss suddenly quit the company was water into the ear of someone sleeping.

Let me know if you’ve heard this idiom before, or if you want to try out the real thing on a friend! :)

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