Frozen to the Marrow

You will probably need to have Japanese characters installed on your computer to view this blog entry correctly.

As most of my friends and family know, Japan in the winter (exempting Hokkaido) is infamous for two things: No Insulation and No Indoor Heating In Schools.  (The former also applies to homes.)  Whilst gallivanting through Europe, I was spoiled rotten by their lovely building requirements.  Thus, when I returned to my island home this last Monday, I found myself completely shocked by the temperature.

This is what my female students have to wear, usually with a jacket or sweater over the top. I KNOW, RIGHT?

During the “opening ceremony” held in the gym at my smallest school—it lasted over an hour, ugh—I was reacquainted with the awful power of a lack of indoor heating.  Despite thermal underwear, two pairs of socks and Mammoth Crocs, several layers up top including my jacket and scarf, I was still absolutely freezing.  I couldn’t imagine what the students were going through, especially the girls, who are required to wear their knee length skirts without tights.  At strict schools, students may not even be allowed to wear jackets.

Whilst muttering angrily to myself about “crazy Japanese” and their sense of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and also “students should study as hard as they can, and clearly being so cold that they can’t hold their pencils helps that,” I realized that I didn’t know any stronger word than “cold.”  So after the assembly, I approached one of the students, exclaimed at the temperature of her bare hands, and then asked,

Me: とてもとても寒いは何といいますか。 (How do you say “really REALLY cold”?)

Her: 。。。とてもとても寒いね。(…really REALLY cold.)

Me: いいえ、区別な単語がありますか。(No, is there a special word for it?)

Her: えっと、凍える? (Uhm, kogoeru?)

Me: 意味は?(What’s it mean?)

Her: [with a frightened look]え〜?英語で?分からんよ!(Whaaat?  In English?  I don’t know!)

Me: [thinking how terrible a teacher I am] Ms. Kumiko [the English teacher], what’s “kogoeru” in English?

Kumiko: Freeze.


My Japanese dictionary offered the first idiom at the top, which pleased me immensely—though now I must memorize the word for “marrow” (zui), which has an EXTREMELY complicated kanji (though part of it is the kanji for bone…hm…).  Still!  It’s easy to remember the kanji for “kogoeru” because the left hand side is the radical for ice, and the right is “east” = it’s always freezing to the east?  I dunno.

Then I created a few sentences to practice using the word beyond, “It’s freezing!”  From top to bottom:

“Because Iki doesn’t have central heating, when it’s winter, I’m always freezing.”

“I’m as frozen as ice cream.”

“I like the snow, but when it’s freezing inside my house, I hate it.”

And JUST FOR FUN, I thesaurus’d “cold” and discovered this gem: gelid, which apparently means “icy, extremely cold” and is from the latin word gelidus, meaning “frost, intense cold.”  It entered our lexicon in the early 17th century, but who knows when the heck it exited.  I’m gonna try and use it in a conversation.