Language | WELL SAID

Pointing out the family with 'ni ataru'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Toshiro

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Mari-chan wa Nana no obasan ni ataru. (Mari is Nana’s aunt.)

Situation 1: Rika is visiting her Aunt Okubo with her baby, Nana. Mrs. Okubo’s daughter, Mariko, is playing with Nana.

里香: 考えてみると、まりちゃんは奈々のおばさん(従伯母)にあたるのね! かわいいおばちゃんね!

まり子: やーん! まり子はおばちゃんじゃないもん! おねえちゃんだもん!

Rika: Kangaete-miru to, Mari-chan wa Nana no obasan (itoko-oba) ni ataru no ne! Kawaii obachan ne!

Mariko: Yān! Mariko wa obachan ja nai mon! Onēchan da mon!

Rika: Come to think of it, little Mari is Nana’s aunt! What an adorable auntie (first cousin once-removed)!

Mariko: Oh, no! I’m not an aunt! I’m (her) elder sister!

The pattern X は Y にあたる can be written in English as “X is equivalent to Y,” and it’s often used to show familial relationships :

千絵 ( ちえ ) はぼくの妻(つま)の妹(いもうと)の子(こ)だから、ぼくにとっては義理(ぎり)の姪(めい)にあたる。 (Since Chie is my wife’s sister’s daughter, she’s my niece-in-law.)

In Situation 1, X は Y にあたる points out that “X” (Mariko) is “Y” (Nana’s aunt), but Mariko feels weird hearing herself described that way as she thinks aunts should be older.

[Note: Mariko’s relationship to Nana is called “itoko-oba,” but it’s often shortened to “oba” in Japanese. The literal translation of this term isn’t “first cousin once-removed” but “cousin-aunt,” which is shortened in the example to “aunt.”]

Situation 2: Young trainee Adam talks to his senior colleague Mr. Mita.

アダム: ハロウィンは、日本のお盆にあたるそうですね。じゃあ、イースターは、春分の日にあたるんでしょうか?

三田: いや、イースターと春分の日は、全然違うと思うよ。

Adamu: Harouin wa, Nihon no o-Bon ni ataru sō desu ne. Jaa, Īsutā wa, Shunbun no Hi ni ataru-n deshō ka?

Mita: Iya, Īsutā to Shunbun no Hi wa zenzen chigau to omou yo.

Adam: I heard Halloween is like Japan’s o-Bon festival. Well then, as for Easter, is that comparable to Vernal Equinox Day?

Mita: No, I think Easter and Vernal Equinox Day are completely different.

Of course, X は Y にあたる can be used more generally to draw a comparison between “X” and “Y,” as Adam does in Situation 2: 旧制(きゅうせい)高校(こうこう)は現在(げんざい)の大学(だいがく)にあたる (The high school system of old Japan [before World War II] is comparable to present-day university). And it can also be used when expressing numbers: 1 マイルは約(やく )1600 メートルにあたる (One mile is equal to around 1,600 meters).

Since the verb 当たる means “to hit,” it can be used when describing how a holiday falls on a certain day of the week, as in the Bonus Dialogue below.

Finally, X は Y にあたる is also used in the expression, 人(ひと)を指(ゆび)さすのは失礼(しつれい)にあたる (it’s rude to point your finger at people), though that expression is often shortened to 人を指さすのは失礼だ (it’s rude to point).

Bonus Dialogue: Two young male colleagues are chatting.

三田(みた): 今年(ことし)の春分(しゅんぶん)の日(ひ)は金曜(きんよう)にあたるから、三連休(さんれんきゅう)になるなあ。

セレ: うん。でも、ウイルスが心配(しんぱい)だから、どこへも遊(あそ)びには行(い)かない。

三田: セレくんは、いいよ。ゆりちゃんと二人(ふたり)で部屋(へや)にいるだけで十分(じゅうぶん)楽(たの)しいだろうから。ぼくなんか、家(いえ)にいると、両親(りょうしん)とうるさい姉(あね)が三人(さんにん)もいて、この五人(ごにん)が交代(こうたい)でぼくに聞(き)いてくるんだ。「まだ彼女(かのじょ)できないの?」とか。あーあ、家にいたくないよ。

セレ: じゃあ、春分の日、一緒(いっしょ)にゆりのアパートに行かない?

三田: ぼくは、ラブラブの二人の邪魔(じゃま)をするような男(おとこ)じゃないよ。

セレ: いや、その日は、春奈(はるな)さんも来(く)ることになっているんだ。三田くんも一度(いちど)会(あ)ったことがあるよね、ゆりのいとこにあたる人。4月(しがつ)から東京(とうきょう)に転勤(てんきん)になるから、住(す)むところを探(さが)しに来るんだって。

三田: あ、それならぜひぜひお邪魔します。春分の日だけは、楽しい休(やす)みになりそうだ。

Mita: This year’s Equinox Day falls on a Friday, so it’ll turn into a three-day holiday (weekend).

Sere: Yeah. But I’m worried about the flu so I’m not going anywhere to play (anywhere fun).

Mita: Sere, bud, it’s OK. It would be fun enough to be at home with Yuri, just the two of you. Me, when I’m at home, my parents and my three noisy sisters are there and all five of them take turns asking me (questions). “You still don’t have a girlfriend?” Ahh, I don’t wanna be at home.

Sere: Well then, on Equinox Day why don’t we go together to Yuri’s apartment?

Mita: I don’t wanna be that guy who’s the third wheel with some lovey-dovey couple.

Sere: No, it turns out that on that day Haruna will also come over. Mita, you’ve met her once before, she’s Yuri’s cousin. It was decided that she’s being transferred to Tokyo for work from April so she’s coming to look for a place to live.

Mita: Ah, then I’ll definitely intrude. It seems like Equinox Day will turn out to be a fun holiday.

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