How do you say ‘suck up to somebody’ in Japanese?

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There are a couple of ways to say ‘suck up to somebody’ in Japanese.

ごまをする

ごま is ‘sesame’. ごまをする literally means ‘grind sesame seeds’. Japanese people may put hands together and move them as if they grind sesame seeds when they want to suck up to their boss etc.

田中さんはいつも社長にごまをすっている

Mr Tanaka is always sucking up to his boss.

こびる

こびる is a verb, which means ‘suck up’.

人にこびる人はきらいです。

I don’t like people who suck up to people.

こびを売る

こび is a noun made from こびる. 売る(う・る)means ‘sell’.

人にこびを売るな。

Don’t suck up to anybody.

たいこもち

たいこ means ‘drum’. もち is from もつ which means ‘hold’.

たいこもち literally means ‘somebody to hold a drum’. たいこもち used to be a male occupation long time ago.

They played drums at a party for high ranking people such as samurai who had a good time with the music.

たいこもち describes people who suck up to somebody superior these days.

兄はたいこもちだ。

My older brother sucks up to people.

You can see たいこもち in a set of hina dolls. See the middle doll in the photo below.

長いものにまかれる

長い(なが・い) means ‘long’. もの means ‘thing’. まかれる is Passive Form of まく which means ‘roll’.

Therefore, 長いものにまかれる literally means ‘be rolled by a long thing’.

This is actually from a Japanese proverb 長いものにはまかれろ which means ‘Follow somebody better or superior than you’.

人生は長いものにまかれたほうがよい。

Life is better if you follow somebody superior than you.

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