While 替え玉 (かえだま, kaedama) usually means “a second helping of ramen noodles”, it also has another unique meaning which is completely irrelevant to it: that is, “do something while pretending to be someone else”. The most common phrase is “替え玉受験 (かえだま じゅけん, kaedama juken)”, which means “to take exams on behalf of someone else”.
A Funny Story about 替え玉受験
It was in 1975 when a 50-year-old man disguised himself as his daughter (!) and took the entrance exams of the women’s (!!) university, “津田塾”. Surprisingly, he managed to blend in with the other female students on the first day, but the next day someone finally realised that he was an old man, not a would-be student at the women’s university. At that time, he was an English teacher at high school, and his audacious and blatant behaviour astonished a number of people in Japan.
替え玉 consists of the two words “替え” meaning “exchange” and “玉”, a counting word for servings of noodles. 玉 also means “human” in a few old expressions such as “悪玉” and “善玉”, meaning “bad person” and “good person”, respectively. That explains why 替え玉 has two quite different meanings: “a second helping of noodles” and “impersonation of someone”.
It is illegal to vote in election by pretending to be someone else
The university became famous after it was reported that kaedama juken was conducted at 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