Here’s another extremely useful non-idiomatic four character compound. The pronunciation is ゆうじゅうふだん. It’s not as easy to break down as 疑心暗鬼 was, but here we go:
優 – gentle
優 – gentle
柔 – soft/flexible
不 – non-
断 – decline
The first half of this compound is never used alone. The second half appears to mean “constant, habitual, unflagging.” Any idea what it means together? No, not “beer gut,” which would be unflagging softness of the abdominal variety – it means “indecisive.”
One of my roommates went back to her hometown in Akita over the recent holiday, but it took her long enough to decide! She didn’t leave until the 1st or the 2nd, and that was only after a lot of hemming and hawing. She was back two days later, too! I realized that I didn’t know how to say indecisive, so I told her the word in English and then tried to explain it and she taught me this compound. Hooray for Japanese roommates!
Yes, 断 can mean decline (as in to refuse), but is that really an appropriate translation in this case? it can also mean to cut off as in 断つ, and also mean to decide or give permission as in 判断 or 無断駐車禁止. I would say that your compound means soft and indecisive, rather than constantly soft.
Well, duh, of course it means indecisive. I believe I mention that up there. I was just breaking down the individual kanji for fun. And look up 不断 – it means habitual, unflagging, endless. Without interruption basically. So if you were really going to say what 断 means in this point, it’s 中断. I stand by my mnemonic.