Asoko-no kado-wo migi-ni magaru-to arimasu-yo (Please turn the corner to the right, and you’ll find one.)

Situation 1: Ms. Tamachi is walking on the street when a stranger asks her for directions.

通行人: すみません、この辺にコンビニはありませんか。

田町: はい。あそこの角を右に曲がると、郵便局のとなりにありますよ。

Tūkōnin: Sumimasen, konohen-ni konbini-wa arimasen-ka.

Tamachi: Hai. Asoko-no kado-wo migi-ni magaru-to, yūbinkyoku-no tonari-ni arimasu-yo.

Passer-by: Excuse me, but isn’t there a convenience store around here?

Tamachi: Yes. Please turn the corner to the right, and you’ll find one next to the post office.

Today we will introduce the difference in the meaning and usage of two nouns 角(かど)and 隅(すみ), which are both generally translated as “corner.” Please imagine the shape of a square; it has four edges. They are called かど. For instance, a pen dropped onto the floor and the owner tries to pick it up, when he struck his head at the edge of the desk by mistake; he would describe this fact, saying: 机(つくえ)の角(かど)に頭(あたま)をぶつけて、いたかった (I hit my head on the edge of the desk and it was painful). Crossroads are called 四(よ)つ角 in Japanese, since there are actually four roads crossing. If there is only one road but curving sharply, it is called 角, too.

Situation 2: Mr. and Mrs. Okubo are at home talking about getting a cleaning robot.

妻: おそうじロボットがほしいなあ。

夫: だけど、あの丸いロボットは、部屋の隅までそうじしてくれないんじゃない?

Tsuma: O-sōji robotto-ga hoshii-naa.

Otto: Dakedo, ano marui robotto-wa, heya-no sumi-made sōji-shite-kurenai-n-ja nai?

Wife: I want a cleaning robot.

Husband: But, that round-shaped robot can’t clean in the corners of the room, can it?

The corners of a closed square-space/area, like a room or paper, is called 隅(すみ), as the husband uses it in Situation 2. 隅切(き)り is to cut off one corner of the road or land so that a car can turn without difficulty. More examples: 書類(しょるい)の隅をホッチキスで留(と)めておいてください (Please staple the corner of the documents). 隅 also means a “part of” something that is not the center of it, as in: 銭湯(せんとう)では、体(からだ)の隅々(すみずみ)まできれいに洗(あら)ってから湯船(ゆぶね)に入(はい)ってください (At the public bath, please enter the bathtub after washing every part of your body perfectly), or as in: 何(なに)をしていても、頭の片隅(かたすみ)で、いつも彼女(かのじょ)のことを考(かんが)えている (Whatever I may do, she’s always somewhere on my mind). 隅に置(お)けない (lit. We can’t put him in the corner of the place) is an idiom that is used when the speaker finds a person more talented, experienced or cultured etc. than expected and describes him/her, as Mr. Sere uses it in Bonus Dialogue.

Bonus Dialogue: After lunch, Mr. Sere comes back to the office and talks to his colleague Mr. Mita.

セレ: (いま)、角(かど)のそば屋(や)に赤坂(あかさか)さんが神田(かんだ)くんと一緒(いっしょ)にいたよ。

三田: ふうん…。

セレ: あれっ、三田くんは赤坂さんの話(はなし)になると、いつも目(め)を輝(かがや)かせるのに…。

三田: それで、三人(さんにん)でいっしょに食事(しょくじ)したの?

セレ: いや。声(こえ)をかけようとしたんだけど、なんだか二人(ふたり)があんまり仲(なか)よく話(はな)し込)(こ)んでいたから、すみのほうで一人(ひとり)で食べて、先(さき)に戻(もど)ってきちゃった。

三田: あの二人は婚約(こんやく)しているんだよ。

セレ: へえ、しらなかった。神田くん、ボーッとしていて頼(たよ)りない男(おとこ)だと思(おも)っていたけど、赤坂さんとつきあうなんて、なかなか隅(すみ)に置(お)けないなあ。

三田: そうか、わかった! ぼくみたいな、仕事(しごと)のできる、しっかりした男は、赤坂さんの好(この)みじゃなかったわけだ。それなら、しかたないや。

Sere: I saw Ms. Akasaka with Mr. Kanda in the sobaya (Japanese-noodle shop) at the corner.

Mita: Hmm…

Sere: Eh? You’re usually interested in talk of Ms. Akasaka.

Mita: So, did the three of you have lunch together?

Sere: No. I tried to talk to them. But, they were talking so intimately; so, I had lunch alone in a corner of the shop and came back here early.

Mita: They’re engaged.

Sere: My goodness! I didn’t know. I thought Kanda was an unreliable blockhead, but he must actually know a thing or two to get Ms. Akasaka!

Mita: Now, I get it! A guy like me who’s an able, reliable man is not her type. In that case, it can’t be helped.

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