Saba o Yomu

[Japanese Idioms by Flashcards]


to read the mackerel

(to manipulate the figures to one’s advantage, to offer false numbers intentionally, to inflate or deflate figures)

Among fish caught in nets, mackerel are so little valued that Japanese fishermen may not bother to count them. Often the rough estimates of mackerel have been highly inflated, giving rise to the use of the phrase “reading the mackerel” to indicate the practice of “guesstimating” in one’s own favor.

Sample text:
(Style: spoken/casual/A=female, B=male)

A: Kono kaikei, zuibun takai to omowanai? Nomimono yonjuuhachinin bun the aru kedo.
B: Kanari saba o yonderu n janai ka. Kaisha barai da 
kara wakaranai to omotteiru n daroo.

A: この会計、ずいぶん高いと思わない? 飲みもの四十八にんぶんってあるけど。
B: かなりさばを読んでるんじゃないか。会社払いだからわか

A: Don’t you think this bill is awfully high? They list 48 drinks!
B: They must be inflating the figures. They probably 
figure nobody will catch it since the company’s paying for it.

Japanese Idioms

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