Why Is Wednesday a “Rain Day”?
The Japanese have a complex writing system. In addition to two alphabets, they also make ample use of Chinese hieroglyphs. But, if learning Chinese writing is difficult in itself, it becomes twice as difficult in the Japanese language, because each symbol has two “names”, a native Japanese name and a borrowed Chinese name.
Sounds crazy, I know. The native names are normally used for simple words made up of just one symbol. For example, 日 – means “the sun”, “sunlight”, or “day”. It’s pronounced as “hi” (just like the English word “he”). However, when this word is used with other characters , the Japanese pronounce it in a Chinese way – “ni” or “nichi”.
For example, 日曜日 (nichi-yo–bi) is Sunday in Japanese.
日本 (ni-hon) mean Japan.
In an overwhelming number of instances, I prefer Japanese “names” to their borrowed Chinese counterparts. For example, I really love the word 人”hito”, which means “person”, “people” or “human”. But I don’t really like “jin”, which is its borrowed Chinese cousin. The “jin” variant is used in compound words such as 外人 “gai-jin”, “foreigner.”
Wednesday, the “water day”
In Japanese, each day of week has its own symbol. For Sunday, it is the sun (日), as I said earlier. For Monday, it’s the moon (月) and Monday is 月曜日 (getsu-yo–bi) – the Moon Day.
But my favorite day is Wednesday.
The symbol which is used in this day of the week is this one – 水 – and it means water. The Chinese “name” of the symbol is “sui”, and Wednesday is “sui-yo–bi” (水曜日). This hieroglyph is the only exception for me, because it’s the only one for which I prefer the Chinese pronunciation over the Japanese version. The Japanese name for water is “mizu” (miso soup, anyone?)
The state of Missouri
Which brings me to an interesting discovery I made today. The American state of Missouri (and the Mississippi River) have Native American names. They say that indigenous tribes of America crossed Alaska in some really distant past, and that was how they got to this part of the world.
Before Alaska, they travelled from Altai through Siberia. If you look at the outfits, the facial features, and the traditions of Altai tribes, they do look a bit like Native Americans.
Come to think of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, which is in the very North of Japan. It’s quite different from the rest of the country, and they say its people are related to the tribes of Altai. There are some linguistic similarities between them, too.
Also, because Japan is so diverse (you can sense the Chinese influence in Central Japan and the South-most island of Okinawa looks like Hawaii or Tahiti to me), linguists can’t decide where to place the language. Some claim it’s related to Korean, others say it’s close to the Altai languages, while there’s a group that favors its likeness to Polynesia / Oceania tongues.
Still, the question remains…
So, I wonder if Missouri and Mississippi are called this way, because “mizu” (misu) means “water” in Japanese. I still don’t know why Wednesday is a rain day, but I’m pretty determined to find out.
- Posted in: Miscellaneous