June 12, 2003

Waku waku

When I met up with Gen last week, he gave me a cool book called Waku Waku - Onomatopoeic Photo Book by Tom Verlinden. Here's a link - it's the 7th book down.

Japanese has a lot of onomatopoeic expressions and this book appears to be geared towards Japanese who want to know how to say such expressions in English. I want to use it to explain to non-Japanese people why my vocabulary is so full of such words. It's a part of how I describe things and I tend to use the Japanese words even to non-Japanese speakers because they are so ピッタリ (pittari) and impossible to replace with English words. I think the first time I used one on Dav was when I emailed him one bone-chilling evening after a perfect bath, and I said I felt ポカポカ (poka poka). No English word worked for me, so that's what he got.

Here are some of my favorites:
gocha gocha (in a jumble or mess; Tokyo in general, Shinjuku specifically)
niya niya (grinning...like the Cheshire cat)
bata bata (running around, unsettled...kinda like me trying to do 6 things at a time)
fuwa fuwa (furry and fluffy. think of your perfect pillow or blankey)

labu labu (in love, as in Dav and I are labu labu) Sorry, just had to use that one! And I'm waku waku (excited with anticipation) that Dav will be here in 12 days ^ .. ^

Posted by Mie at June 12, 2003 06:22 PM | TrackBack

Perhaps you might be able to help explain the concept or meaning behind "teru teru bozu"? It was always a mystery whether they are trying to ward off rain or bring it? IS there a story behing this?

Posted by: at June 12, 2003 09:00 PM

not to be a party pooper but just FYI, not all of those repeating words are onomatopoeic.

saku saku is
wan wan is
labu labu is not.
pittari is not

saku saku is giongo (sound based word)
pittari is gitaigo

Also, if saku saku means "wet crunchy" then why is it used to describe pretty much any crunchy bread? I always got "saku saku" as lightly crispy (croissant) and "pari pari" as more strongly crispy (hard pretzel or pretz).

My favorite is zuku zuku (pronounced zuk zuk) used for a headache. My teacher said it was the sound of a knife being plunged into a melon.

Posted by: moon at June 14, 2003 02:51 PM

Yeah, the author acknowledges that not all the words are onomatopoeic and some just repeat sounds. We're only pointing to the fact that there is a long and fun list of such words.
And I didn't use pittari as an example! I just needed that word and English was insufficient.

BTW, teru teru bozu is to ward off rain. I used to hang them the day before my school picnics. But with the rainy season, I'm not sure how effective they will be now...

Posted by: Mie at June 15, 2003 06:29 PM
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