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  • Writer's pictureharu

Fifty Shades of Rain (T)

Storm Eunice has put London and many other cities in the UK on high weather alert today. Advised to stay at home to avoid all nonessential travel, London is under house arrest again, this time due to gale force winds and not the virus. The sunny sky that disguises the oncoming storm connects us here to the mood and fragile order that must have been present in 1948 East Pakistan when Urdu was designated the sole national language in a region with a majority of Bengali speakers.

Mounting tension and protests led to four dead students at the University of Dhaka. It would take four more years for Bengali to become recognized as an official language, and another 15 years before Bangladesh would become a country of its own with its mother tongue, Bengali, officially instated as its national language. The UN’s #InternationalMotherLanguageDay honors that day on the 21st of February every year, and uses this day to advocate mother-language diversity and celebrate mother tongues all over the world.

Listening to the storm build up on this weather-alert day in London and hearing the house creak against the gale force winds, the words that spring to mind are visceral ones from my childhood in my mother tongue, Japanese. As I reflect on the storm, and I can feel the cutting wind blow byuubyuu, making the house grate mishimishi against its joists, arousing a feeling that could make a person shake gatagata with fear. One of my favorite things about my mother tongue is its rich dictionary of onomatopoeia. An onomatopoeia is a word that phonetically imitates the sound it describes, like hiccup, quack or bowwow. Japanese has a huge array of these emotive sound-imitation-words like byuubyuu, mishimishi and gatagata.

I love the folkloric, auditive side of Japanese, but the written language borrowed and localized from Chinese gives us many ways to experience multiple shades of a single natural element, like rain. If you’re homebound and waiting for some lighter spring rain, here’s a delicious array of 50 words for rain curated by John Spacey:

Thanks for letting me nerd out today and take a visit home to my mother tongue. Happy #InternationalMotherLanguageDay!


雨 あめ ame rain

白雨 はくう hakuu rain shower

急雨 きゅう kyuu rain shower

俄雨 にわかあめ niwakaame rain shower

降雨 こう kou rainfall

Rain by Intensity

弱雨 じゃくう jakuu weak rain

小雨 こさめ kosame light rain

小降り こぶり koburi light rain

微雨 びう biu light rain

小糠雨 こぬかあめ konukaame fine rain

煙雨 えんう enu misty rain

細雨 さいう saiu drizzle

多雨 たう tau heavy rain

大雨 おおあめ ooame heavy rain

強雨 きょうう kyouu severe rain

横降り よこぶり yokoburi driving rain

吹き降り ふきぶり fukiburi driving rain

篠突く雨 しのつくあめ shinotsukuame intense rain

集中豪雨 しゅうちゅうごうう shuuchuugouu severe localized downpour

Rain Combos

風雨 ふう fuu wind and rain

雨氷 うひょう uhyou freezing rain

雨後雪 あめのちゆき amenochiyuki rain then snow

雪交じり ゆきまじり yukimajiri snow and rain

雨混じりの雪 あめまじりのゆき amemajirinoyuki snow and rain

晴後雨 はれのちあめ harenochiame clear then rain

雨露 うろ uro rain and dew

Cold Rain

涼雨 りょうう ryouu cool rain

冷雨 れいう reiu chilly rain

寒雨 かんう kanu cold winter rain

氷雨 ひさめ hisame very cold rain or hail

Types of Rain

夜雨 やう yau night rain

梅雨前線 ばいうぜんせん baiuzensen seasonal rain

春霖 しゅんりん shun rin spring rain

春雨 しゅんう shun u gentle spring rain

緑雨 りょくう ryokuu early-summer rain

五月雨 さみだれ samidare early-summer rain

秋雨 あきさめ akisame autumn rain

秋霖 しゅうりん shuu rin autumn rain

凍雨 とうう touu winter rain

十雨 じゅうう juuu refreshing rain once in ten days

恵雨 けいう keiu welcome rain

人工雨 じんこうう jinkouu artificial rain

放射能雨 ほうしゃのうう houshanouu radioactive rain

天泣 てんきゅう tenkyuu rain from a cloudless sky

Time and Rain

雨模様 あまもよう amamoyou signs of rain

雨催い あまもよい amamoyoi threat of rain

雨上り あまあがり amaagari after the rain

雨後 うご ugo after rain

雨間 あまあい amaai break in the rain

晴一時小雨 はれいちじこさめ hareichijikosame brief light rain

霖 ながめ nagame long rain

霖雨 りんう rinu long rain

長雨 ながめ nagame long rain

陰霖 いんりん inrin long rain

夕立 ゆうだち yuudachi sudden evening rain

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