Teaching English in Japan, I find some interesting differences in how certain words are used between English and Japanese. The words may translate directly, but they may not have the same connotation.
For example, the weather has been unusually warm this week, reaching 21 degrees Celsius yesterday. Usually, it’s in the low teens at this time of year. Numerous people have told me it’s hot. I always responded by acting surprised and saying I actually felt quite comfortable with this temperature. I said it felt warm, and that hot meant it was uncomfortable, causing me to sweat. That’s normally in the high 20s or above.
While hot may mean the same thing between Japanese and English, the Japanese may use it as a more relative term. Hot could merely mean it’s warmer than normal. In English, we usually mean it’s uncomfortably warm. 21 degrees is certainly not hot. It is warm and very nice. I think hot in English is more absolute.
Of course, what’s hot could be different between people from different countries. In Canada, I often thought 28 degrees was hot. After spending ten summers in Japan, 28 is actually not so hot, especially after a hot summer of two straight months of 30-plus temperatures. It suddenly feels merely warm to me.
Language is fascinating, isn’t it?