Windy words in Japanese

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Windy words
“I got wind of her plans.”
“It’s an ill wind …”
The word wind is frequently used metaphorically in English. The Japanese word for wind, fuu, is used to similar effect as in English.

Fuu is the onyomi (name of the Chinese character) reading of wind in Japanese. The kunyomi (native Japanese pronunciation) is kaze.

However, the metaphorical meaning is expressed using the pronunciation fuu rather than kaze, so we will be looking mainly at fuu this time.

The most common use of fuu is with the meaning “way” or “style.” For example:
Dou iu fuu ni shitara ii desu ka.
How should [one] go about it?

Fuu is often affixed to another character to provide this meaning as in:
古風 kofuu (“old” + “wind”), old school, quaint, outdated, old fashioned
新風 shinpuu (“new” + “wind”) new in style, modern (note that the f, coming after an n, becomes a p).
今風 imafuu (“now” + “wind”) modern, current, in the style of today
下町風 shitamachifuu (“downtown” + “wind”), downtown style, streety
東洋風 toyofuu (“oriental” + “wind”) Oriental in style
日本風 nihonfuu (“japan” + “wind”) Japanese in style
風変わり fuugawari “wind” + “change”) eccentric, peculiar, odd

And of course, fuu also links with other words for the literal meaning of wind, although usually with the kaze pronunciation rather than fuu. For example:
朝風 asakaze (“morning” + “wind”), morning breeze
追い風 oikaze (“chase” + “wind”), tail wind
A notable exception, though, where fuu is used for the literal meaning of “wind,” is taifuu (“tower” + “wind”), which has become part of the English language as typhoon.

Finally, some “wind” words of wisdom for these lowering times:
ashita wa ashita no kaze ga fuku
(literally, “as for tomorrow, tomorrow’s wind will blow”)
In plain English: "Tomorrow will take care of itself."


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