Is this forgotten Japanese word actually a thing?
June 24, 2020 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I seem to remember reading, many years ago now, about a Japanese word that refers specifically to the kind of love that manifests as a deep contentment on feeling one's lover warming their cold feet on one's body. Is there actually such a word? Bonus points: where am I likely to have read about it?
posted by flabdablet to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I tried searching for different combinations of 足 (foot), 両足 (feet), 温める (warm up), 冷える (be chilled), 冷たい (cold), 恋人 (romantic partner), and 妻 (wife), but was unable to find such a specific term. I did find this comic that someone posted on their blog about basically this exact situation (though from the perspective of the person warming up their feet), but even this did not include any such term. I'm not a native Japanese speaker, so I won't make any confident pronouncements, but I think this is modest evidence that the term you're looking for does not exist.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 3:24 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The churning mud at the bottom of the memory pool finally burped and disgorged the word amaeru, an verb that refers neither specifically to cold feet nor the feelings engendered by warming them, but which sits near the centre of a conceptual cluster that somebody writing something somewhere might plausibly have used that example to illustrate.

Most of the commentary I've read about this verb invokes English-language ideas such as spoiling, childishness, wheedling, indulging and pampering, all of which carry pejorative connotations in English.

I'd be interested to hear from Japanese native speakers to clarify whether the amaeru/amayakasu cluster of behaviours are seen in a similarly pejorative light there, and also whether there is some word in that cluster that does indeed describe the feeling of pleasure at being able to provide somebody close with something nice sufficient to render all of the negative aspects of doing so irrelevant.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on June 24, 2020

Best answer: I posted this to the social media of my language-related radio show and got this back from a listener:

I asked my Japanese friends to comment on this word.

My friend's first response was, "I must admit, for better or worse, my love has never been so complicated."

Another friend replied that his Japanese wife thought the word might be "omoiyari" (which Google transliterates as "思いやり." But, since I don't speak Japanese, I can't be of more assistance here.

Then, friend number one came back with the response, "The word your friend is looking for might be "jiai," which is usually translated as "benevolence." In my understanding, it is the warm feeling you experience when your child sleeps on your lap."

He explained that the Chinese character (in Japanese) for "jiai" is 慈愛 (which also translates as kindness in Chinese).
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2020

Response by poster: Lovely. Thank you! Although it seems that without a Faceplant account I am unable to read the linked comment. Could you cross-post or memail it?
posted by flabdablet at 10:07 PM on June 26, 2020

The comment is posted above. There's no more at the link; I just included it for completeness and credit.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:48 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

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