Sunday, April 3, 2011

The true meaning of the word

Damnit, Kansai - I'm gone for less than two whole days and you get cold again.

So I was away visiting Yoshie in Saga this weekend, but my enjoyment of the trip was severely hampered by 花粉所 花粉症 (かふんしょう). And you know, my recent experience has really made me think about that word.
Mmm...enjoying that spring air?

In Japan, I've come across quite a few Japanese English speakers who have translated 花粉所 花粉症 as "hay fever." I always found that a bit odd, as back where I grew up in New York, I don't remember ever hearing anyone ever call it that. It was just "allergies."

Did you catch a cold? Nah, it's just these stupid allergies.

The idea of "hay fever" seemed weird, since there's usually no fever. And it's caused by all kinds of pollen; not just hay.

I haven't thought a whole lot about it, though, because although I do have allergies some years, they've been relatively mild in Japan. Until this year. The past two or three weeks have been pretty bad. I've never been affected by allergies so intensely for such a long period of time. Sometimes I'd get them for a couple weeks in the spring or summer, but they would manifest themselves mostly in brief "allergy attacks." I'd sneeze a bunch of times and maybe have a runny nose for a while, but nothing too crazy.

This weekend was horrible. I had an itchy, runny nose almost nonstop. Had to have tissues on me at all times, and went through like a whole box of'em in one day. Yes, I could see this being called "hay fever."

This morning I went to a pharmacy and got some medicine, which stopped the nose symptoms...but since taking it I've just felt zonked and listless, with little appetite or energy. And this stuff is supposed to be non-drowsy. I think I'll take a sick day tomorrow to go consult with a doctor, because this is gonna be no good if I'm still suffering like this next week when classes start up for the year.

Update 4/4 - An update from Doctor Mom:

"Hay fever is the colloquial term for autumn allergies, ironically to goldenrod mostly, not hay.  In the spring, the term is rose fever, although I don't know of anyone with a rose allergy.  Probably because it is time for the roses to come out.  Early spring is for tree pollen and late spring is grass pollen.  I never used either term with you because 1. Hay fever is incorrect for us spring sufferers, and 2. Hardly anyone has heard of rose fever so most people won't know what you're talking about.  I grew up with calling it hay fever, though.  You and I have always had spring allergies, not fall."


  1. Thanks. =P

    Do you have allergies, Lina?

  2. Thank you! Hopefully whatever is doing this to me will stop spreading its vile seed soon.

  3. I heard symptoms are worse now because the earthquake shook all the cedar pollen and we're breathing huge doses of it. Hope you feel better soon.

    PS: Not sure but I think it's 花粉(症), as in 'sho-u.'

  4. Kaori,

    Cedar! The hidden enemy.

    Thanks for pointing that out! You're quite right. One thing I really need to improve upon is proofreading my stuff before posting!

  5. I think Kaori's right. 花粉症.
    Where I'm from, everyone called it hay fever. But maybe it's because there were a lot of farms around, and a lot of pollen allergies were from grass, as well as several kinds of trees.

    I have bad hay fever this year, too. I didn't have any allergies up until 2 years ago.

  6. Yeah, you guys are right. Thanks for the catch!

    Hmm...I guess the idea of it being earthquake-related sounds pretty plausible. Hope it'll go away soon...

  7. Yeah, Everyone around here just calls it "Hay Fever"

    I am thankful not to have it. Whatever it's called. Good luck. I hope the season of suffering is mercifully short!

  8. Thanks, Chris. Yes, I'm praying for mercy.

  9. I always end up uploading a post 2-3 times, too.

    I also want to suggest that we cut all the cedar trees in the Kanto area to use as timber to rebuild Tohoku. Very serious about this.

  10. Fine by me. Let's replace them with palms or something cool-looking.

  11. Get some Allegra from the doc. I always had to go by once or twice a year (still do even here in the US, actually) because whenever the pollen came out, I would become unable to breathe through my nose.

  12. Hmm, may do that. Though some of the side effects look worse than the allergy symptoms!

  13. They aren't bad - I took it while I was in Japan, and it just went over-the-counter in the U.S. It'll cure what ails ya.

  14. In the UK we call it hay fever all the time. Is it really refered to as something else in other English speaking countries?

  15. Hi Shaun. Sounds like it may be regional or situational. Gonna post an update shortly.