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”. In fact, it means “everyone” with a bit of irony, and is often used when a myriad of people blindly follow the same trend or idea without givning a second thought about its value or necessity. For instance, when some people say “猫も杓子も大学(だいがく)に行(い)く”, what they suggest is that a great number of people —from cats to rice spatulas— go to university without valid reasons. The closest English phrase to 猫も杓子も would be “every Tom, Dick and Harry”.
Why ‘Cats and Rice Spatulas’?
Although there are a couple of theories about its origin, none of them has been validated; we simply use this phrase for its unique vibe and rhythm. When it comes to idioms, it’s fairly common that people use them without understanding why, say, “raining cats and dogs’” — apparently cats pop up out of nowhere in idioms across many languages, like they do 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.
Related Anime Term: 杓死 (しゃくし)
One of my followers pointed out that the idiom 猫も杓子も might be the origin of ‘杓死 (しゃくし, shakushi)’, the name of the special attack of Captain Kuro in the manga “One Piece”. The deadly attack kills people around him indiscriminately, 猫も杓子も (‘from cats to rice spatulas’). Although its actual origin is unknown, this theory is very probable given that his weapon is 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
猫をかぶる: Japanese Idiom ‘Wear a Cat’
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)
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