Ramming home the point with dokoro ka

by and

Uchi-no shujin-wa, o-kayu-dokoro-ka insutanto-rāmen-mo jibun-de tsukuranai. (My husband won’t even cook instant noodles by himself, let alone rice porridge.)

Situation 1: Mrs. Okubo is at home, chatting with her friend Mrs. Yamashita.

大久保:  この間、私が風邪で寝ていたら、主人がおかゆを作ってくれたの。見直しちゃった。

山下:  まあ、うらやましい。うちの主人は、おかゆどころかインスタントラーメンも自分で作らないのよ。

Ōkubo: Kono-aida, watashi-ga kaze-de nete-itara, shujin-ga o-kayu-o tsukutte-kureta-no. minaoshichatta.

Yamashita: Maa, urayamashii. Uchi-no shujin-wa, o-kayu-dokoro-ka insutanto-rāmen-mo jibun-de tsukuranai-no-yo.

Okubo: The other day, when I was laid up in bed with a cold, my husband made rice porridge for me. Now I’m seeing him in a new light.

Yamashita: I envy you! My husband won’t even cook instant noodles by himself, let alone rice porridge.

Today we will introduce the meaning and usage of the particle of emphasis どころか and its related expressions. The pattern X(noun)どころかY(noun) is often used in a negative sentence to emphasize the negation of X by denying Y, which is easier/smaller/weaker/simpler than X. This is what Mrs. Yamashita does in Situation 1, emphasizing the point that her husband doesn’t or can’t cook rice porridge by showing that he can’t even cook instant noodles, which are even easier. Instead of a noun, X and Y can be verbs or adjective phrases or clauses, but in those cases, X would be in dictionary form and Y would be in the affirmative rather than negative form. In that usage, Y is something opposite to X that goes against the speaker’s prediction or expectation, as in: よろこぶどころか、すごく怒(おこ)った (Far from being pleased, he got very angry).

Situation 2: High school students Kenta and Mitsuo are talking.

健太:  ねえ、光男、サッカー部のメンバーが足りないんだ。入ってくれないかな。

光男:  悪いけど、サッカーどころじゃないんだ。今やっているプログラミング、あと少しで完成なんだよ。

Kenta: Nē, Mitsuo, sakkā-bu-no menbā-ga tarinai-n-da. Haitte-kurenai-kana.

Mitsuo: Warui-kedo, sakkā-dokoro-ja nai-n-da. Ima yatte-iru puroguramingu, ato sukoshi-de kansei-nan-da-yo.

Kenta: Hey, Mitsuo, the soccer club is short of members. Won’t you join?

Mitsuo: Sorry, but seriously, I’ve no time for soccer. I’m so close to completing the programming I’m working on.

The pattern Xどころではない/じゃない is used to show that the present condition, situation or circumstances is quite important for the speaker and that he/she has no time to spare for X or the like, as in Mitsuo’s sentence in Situation 2.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Ueno has just come back from an overnight stay with his parents. Mr. Sere, a member of his staff, talks to him.

セレ:  お母(かあ)さんのご病気(びょうき)、いかがでしたか。

上野:  それが、病気どころかピンピンしていたよ。あれは仮病(けびょう)だな。正月(しょうがつ)に帰省(きせい)できなかったし、今月(こんげつ)の連休(れんきゅう)も忙(いそが)しいから帰省どころじゃないよ、ってこの間(あいだ)電話(でんわ)で言ったんだ。そうしたら、その2、3日(に、さんにち)後(ご)に急(きゅう)におふくろが入院(にゅういん)したって知(し)らせがあったんだよ。

セレ:  でも、お母さんが元気(げんき)でよかったじゃないですか。親孝行(おやこうこう)できましたか。

上野:  いや、親孝行どころか、親不孝(おやふこう)をしてきたよ。「たいした病気でもないのに、いちいち呼(よ)びつけるな」って言っちゃったからなあ。

セレ:  それは、かわいそうです。すぐ電話をして、やさしい言葉(ことば)をかけてあげてください。ぼく、日本(にほん)という遠(とお)い外国(がいこく)に来(き)て初(はじ)めて親(おや)のありがたさがわかったんです。

上野:  そうか。うーん…、今夜(こんや)、おふくろに電話してみるか。

Sere: Mr. Ueno, how is your mother’s illness?

Ueno: She’s not at all ill. I think she was pretending. I couldn’t visit my parents for New Year’s, and the other day I told them on the phone that it’ll be impossible to visit them on the consecutive holidays this month. Then, after a few days, I heard Mom was hospitalized suddenly.

Sere: But it’s good that your mother’s health condition was OK. Did you manage to show her you’re a loyal son?

Ueno: No, on the contrary, I was quite disloyal; I told her not to make me go to all the trouble of coming over just because she has an illness that’s not even serious.

Sere: Poor her. You should call her and offer her some kind words right away, Mr. Ueno. It was only when I came to Japan, a foreign country far from home, that I realized how precious my parents are.

Ueno: I see. Hmm … I might call Mom tonight.