One of the most colorful words in the Japanese language is, unsurprisingly, the word 'color,' or iro.
Whereas in English the non-literal meanings of the word have a lot to do with identity: showing one's colors, trooping the color, in Japanese it has more to do with love and sex.
色気 iroke, literally "color spirit," has, besides the (not often used) meaning of "shades of color" the meaning of "sexual interest, erotic feeling." iroke no aru means to have sex appeal, and its opposite is iroke no nai. E.g. iroke no aru otoko, a sexy guy; iroke no nai hito, someone without sex appeal.
色っぽい One adjective for the word iro is iroppoi, literally "colorish," but it has nothing to do with frequencies of light. It means "sexy, erotic, sensual, glamorous, attractive, brassy, amorous, voluptuous."
色男 An iro-otoko, literally, "color man," is a "hot guy, lady-killer, lover, adonis."
色きち女 Iro-kichi-onna, literally "color crazy woman" is, as you can probably guess, a nympho.
好色 Koh-shoku is the Chinese reading of the characters for "to like" (koh) and "color" (shoku). Koh-shoku means "lust, sensuality, lewdness" and is a rather old-fashioned term for what is now called, in a borrowing from English, poruno.
Finally, double iro up: iroiro, and you have a completely different meaning: "various, this and that, a mixture." "Iroiro arigato," or "Thank you for everything." "Iroiro komarimashita yo," or "Oh, I had all sorts of problems."
Used together with a noun you add the particle "na" to make iroirona, or the more common, and easily pronounced, ironna. "Ironna hito," or "all sorts of people."
Iro wa imi ga iroiro aru! (Color has all sorts of meanings!)
© Japan Visitor
Thursday, May 14, 2009
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