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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colors in Japanese



Listen to the colors in Japanese from Joji

We have looked at the numbers in Japanese and days of the week, another vocabulary category beneficial to quickly learn is colors (iro 色).

White (shiro 白), black (kuro 黒), red (aka 赤), green (midori 緑), blue (ao 青), brown (chairo 茶色), yellow (kiiro 黄色), purple (murasaki 紫), orange (orenji オレンジ), pink (pinku ピンク), crimson (shinku 深紅), gray (haiiro 灰色).

Notice that some of the colors are taken from English and written in katakana such as orange (orenji オレンジ) and pink (pinku ピンク). In fact, the colors are frequently rendered in English / katakana for new loan words such as シルバーシート ("silver seats" reserved for the elderly on buses and subways), ブラクホール (blackhole), グリーンカード (green card). 
However, blueprint is still aojyashin (青写真) and blue sky aozora (青空). Interestingly traffic light green is "blue" so a green light is aoshingo (青信号) and to be still green around the ears, or naive is aoppoi (青っぽい).

Other color words are taken from objects that have that particular color, thus brown is (chairo 茶色) lit. 'tea color' and gray (haiiro 灰色) lit. ' ash color' or dark or slate gray (nezumiiro 鼠色) lit. 'mouse color.'

Colors are often used in Japanese place names and family names, thus we have Shirakawa (白川 = white river), Kurokawa (黒川 = black river), Midori-ku (緑区 = green ward), Akaike (赤池 = red lake) and so on.

Other words and phrases using color words include iroiro (色色 more commonly written 色々 = various, assorted), pinku saron (ピンク サロン = a place offering sexual services), akaji (赤字 to be in the red, in deficit), kuromaku (黒幕 = an éminence grise or behind the scenes fixer), hakujin (white person 白人), kokujin (black person 黒人) etc.

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