While 替え玉 (かえだま, kaedama) is usually known as “another portion of noodles (of ramen)”, it has another meaning which is completely unrelated to noodles; it indicates the act of doing something while pretending to be someone else. 替え玉 usually contains a negative connotation that the act is not supposed to be done. For instance, “替え玉受験 (kaedamajuken)” is a common phrase which means the act of taking entrance exams on behalf of someone else.
One of the Most Shocking 替え玉受験
In 1975, a 50-year-old man disguised himself as his daughter (!) and took entrance exams of the women’s (!!) university “津田塾”. Surprisingly, he managed to hide himself among the other female students on the first day, but next day he was found out to be an old bloke, not a would-be student at the women’s university. He was an English teacher of a high school at that time, and his audacious and blatant behavior astonished a number of people in Japan.
替え玉 consists of the two words “替え” meaning “exchange” and “玉”, a word used for counting portions of noodles. 玉 also means “human” in a few old and uncommon expressions such as “悪玉” and “善玉”, that mean “bad person” and “good person”, respectively. That explains why 替え玉 has two quite different meanings: “a second portion of noodles” and “impersonation of someone else”.
It is illegal to vote in election 替え玉で (=pretending to be someone else)
The university became famous after it was reported that 替え玉受験 was conducted during the entrance exams.
Synonyms and Related Expressions
Synonyms: 身代わり (scapegoat)、影武者 (decoy)
Synonyms in English: impersonation, decoy, do something pretending to be someone else
Related words and phrases: 替え玉受験