Lost in Translation
June 22, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

What language/meaning does this expression have: 花 鳥 風 月?
posted by mooselini to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Google translate says it's Chinese and means "Flower bird wind Month" -- but hopefully someone who actually knows Chinese can come in and say if it has a less literal meaning.
posted by brainmouse at 11:41 AM on June 22, 2012

At least one online translator says it's Japanese, and translates as 'beauties of nature'
posted by jquinby at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2012

Best answer: It's a Japanese proverb. From Wikipedia:

花鳥風月 Kachō Fuugetsu
Literally: Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon
Meaning: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.

As an aside, Chinese and Japanese share a character set, as well as language constructions like the four character idiom.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:49 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know rhythm and booze has the answer you're probably looking for, but out of curiosity's sake I just asked my native Taiwanese parents and while they said that 花鳥風月 is pretty much nonsense in Mandarin, they also wondered if you meant

風花雪月 ("wind flower snow moon"),

meaning "trite poetry subject (idiom); effete language without substance / love affair / romance is in the air".

posted by brieche at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

花鳥風月 【かちょうふうげつ】 (n) (1) (See 花鳥諷詠) beauties of nature; the traditional themes of natural beauty in Japanese aesthetics; (2) artistic pursuits involving nature themes.

JDICT is a goto place for these things. There is a special-ness to the 4 characters. There's a whole special dictionary of 4 character aphorisms that are a bit more than word for word translations, just like English aphorisms ("pearls before swine", "bird in the hand", etc.)
posted by zengargoyle at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The meaning can be very deep and it can be very simple. The simple Chinese to English meaning of Flower, Bird, Wind and Moon is that you have all wonderful things in spring.
posted by Yellow at 3:17 PM on June 22, 2012

Not going to disagree with anyone's interpretations of these, but a note on JDICT: I found a lot of stuff on there that left my Japanese teacher and other local friends (including graduate students specializing in Japanese linguistics and obscure Japanese poetry) scratching their heads and wondering wtf. If you find yourself browsing JDICT and considering some really neat expression for a business presentation or tattoo or something, please verify it with some other source, prefrably a breathing one.

That said, JDICT is a great reference with awesome finds.
posted by whatzit at 3:20 AM on June 25, 2012

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