猫も杓子も (ねこもしゃくしも, neko mo shakushi mo) is an advanced Japanese idiom that literally means ‘cats and rice spatulas’. Actually, it means ‘everyone’ with a bit of irony, and is often used when a plethora of people blindly follow the same trend or idea without thinking much about its value or necessity. For instance, some people say ‘猫も杓子も大学(だいがく)に行(い)く’, which means ‘Everyone—from cats to rice spatulas—goes to university’, implying that for many of those there is no point in ‘studying’ at university.
Why ‘Cats and Rice Spatulas’ ?
Although there are a couple of theories about its origin, none of them holds water; we simply use this phrase for its unique tone and rhythm. This is akin to English speakers saying ‘raining cats and dogs’ without understanding its rationale, and interestingly there is no definitive origin in this phrase, either. It seems a cat often pops up out of nowhere in an idiom as well as in your garden.
The first word ‘猫 (ねこ)’ means ‘cat’, and the second one 杓子 (しゃくし) is an old term for ‘しゃもじ’ meaning ‘rice spatula’. In Japan, it’s very common to use しゃもじ, a special spatula (usually a wooden one) to scoop rice from a rice cooker.
Relataiton to 杓死 (しゃくし) in the Manga ‘One Piece’
One of my followers has pointed out that 猫も杓子も might be the origin of ‘杓死 (しゃくし, shakushi)’, the name of the special attack performed by Captain Kuro in the manga ‘One Piece’. This deadly attack kills everyone around him indiscriminately, 猫も杓子も (‘from cats to rice spatulas’). Although the origin of the name is unknown, this theory is probable given that his weapon is also called ‘Cat Claws’.
Everyone uploads photos of bubble tea on Instagram
(implying that their act is trite/lacking in originality)
タピオカ(ティー) = tapioca tea = bubble tea
インスタ stands for ‘インスタグラム’ = Instagram
Synonyms: 誰(だれ)かれも, どいつもこいつも, こぞって
Synonyms in English: Every Tom, Dick and Harry, the whole world and his dog
Related Words: 猫 (ねこ) cat, しゃもじ (rice spatula)