If you read the title of this post and thought, “How can Japanese not have hot water?!” then this post is for you. Those of you who are familiar with this topic will know that Japan has hot water, of course. How can the bath and tea loving Japanese not have hot water. It’s just the complete opposite, in fact. Japanese people love hot water so much that they have a completely different word reserved just for water that’s hot. In fact, they even put an honorific 「お」 on top of it to make sure hot water realizes how awesome it is.
お湯 – Honorific hot water who blesses us with its holy gift of tasty tea and relaxing baths
Cold water just gets the shaft because it sucks and is just 「冷たい水」 if you want to be specific or just 「水」 as coldness is often implied (remember, hot water gets its own word).
The moral of this post is that you should never take anything for granted in a new language. That’s why, when I try to say something I’m unfamiliar with, I always try to find some real world examples and usages using various dictionaries and Google. There’s also Lang-8 to get your work checked by other people.
I’ve compiled a list of some word usages that might seem odd to us only because of the way we’re used to saying it in English. Can you think of other examples that have caught you unawares in the past?
- 電気をつける／消す – Attaching and erasing electricity to turn the lights and electronic devices on or off.
- 傘を差す – Pointing an umbrella to open it.
- シャワーを浴びる – Japanese uses a special verb for showering, also used for basking in the sun.
- 量が多い／少ない – Amount uses discrete measurement adjectives of numerous and few. I’ve often made the mistake of using 大きい and 小さい.
- 背が低い – Height is low NOT short.
- 教える – You don’t have to be a teacher to teach. You can use 「教える」 just for telling someone something they don’t know.
- うそ – Not always used for fibbing, you can say “lie!” to express disbelief as in “no way!”