Language | WELL SAID

Don't confuse the homonyms of 'aki' (autumn)

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Aki-ga kita-nante shinjiraremasen (I can’t believe that autumn has come)

Situation 1: Mr. Tien is talking with his client Mr. Suzuki.

鈴木: 相変わらず暑いですね。立秋を過ぎても、秋が来たなんて言えませんね。

ティエン: 本当に。もう9月に入ったなんて信じられませんよ。

Suzuki: Aikawarazu atsui-desu-ne. Risshū-o sugite-mo, aki-ga kita-nante iemasen-ne.

Tien: Hontō-ni. Mō kugatsu-ni haitta-nante shinjiraremasen-yo.

Suzuki: It’s still so hot, isn’t it? (According to the lunar calendar) it’s already autumn, but we really can’t say that autumn has arrived.

Tien: You’re right. I can’t believe it’s already September.

Today we introduce three homonyms of the noun あき. 秋(あき) in Situation 1 means autumn/fall in the four seasons 春夏秋冬 (しゅんかしゅうとう, spring, summer, fall and winter). The pitch accent of 秋 is high-low and that of 秋が is high-low-low. Another あき, which means “being bored,” is written as 飽き in kanji. It is the noun form of the verb 飽きる/飽きます (to get bored). The accent of 飽き is low-high, and that of 飽きが is low-high-low. Therefore, the sentence あきがくる has two different meanings depending on the accent: “fall comes” and “I get bored of it,” respectively. Related expressions are 飽き飽きだ/飽き飽きする (to get really bored of) and 飽きっぽい (tending to get bored of things easily). Examples: もうこんな生活 (せいかつ)には飽き飽きだ (I’m fed up of living this way); 息子(むすこ)は飽きっぽい性格(せいかく)で、3回(かい)も仕事(しごと)を変(か)えている (My son is fickle and has already switched job three times).

Situation 2: Mr. Sere is at a real estate agency.

セレ: 駅に近くて、今のマンションより少し広いところは、 ありませんか。

不動産屋: あ、ちょうど駅前のローズ・コーポに空きがありますよ。

Sere: Eki-ni chikakute, ima-no manshon-yori sukoshi hiroi tokoro-wa, arimasen-ka.

Fudōsanya: A, chōdo ekimae-no Rōzu Kōpo-ni aki-ga arimasu-yo.

Sere: Do you have a condominium that’s near the station and is a bit more spacious than the one I live in now?

Agent: Ah, yes, one in Rose Corp, right in front of the station, is vacant now.

Another あき is the noun form of the verb 空く/空きます (to be vacant). The accent of 空き is low-high, like that of 飽き. However, 空きが is low-high-high. 空き is used to express that something is empty, as in 空き箱(ばこ, box), 空き缶(かん, can), 空きビン (bottle), 空き家(や, house), 空き部屋(べや, room), 空き地(ち, land), 空き時間(じかん, time), etc. 空き巣(す, nest) means a sneak thief or cat burglar. Examples: 空き時間を有効(ゆうこう)に使(つか)いたい (I’d like to use my free time effectively); 旅行(りょこう)に行(い) っている間(あいだ)に空き巣に入(はい)られてしまった (A thief broke into my house while I was traveling).

Bonus Dialogue: Mrs. Okubo is chatting with her mother on the phone.

大久保夫人: 飽(あ)きちゃったり古(ふる)くなったりで要(い)らなくなった服(ふく)がたくさんあるの。処分(しょぶん)したいんだけど…。

母: 私(わたし)は、そういう物(もの)は、リサイクルショップに持(も)って行(い)って、買(か)い取(と)ってもらうことにしているの。今(いま)の時期(じき)なら、秋物(あきもの)はすぐ買ってもらえるわ。安(やす)いけどね。

大久保夫人: あら、私(わたし)もそうしようかな。どこ?

母: 成増(なります)の駅前(えきまえ)。

大久保夫人: 成増って、東上線(とうじょうせん)の?遠(とお)いじゃない。でも、まあ、交通費(こうつうひ)にもならないとしても、捨(す)てるよりいいわね。それに、クロゼットに空(あ)きができるし、部屋(へや)も広々(ひろびろ)するでしょうし。

母: うーん、それがそうでもないのよ。

大久保夫人: えっ、どうして?

母: 持ち込(こ)んだ服を査定(さてい)してもらっている間(あいだ)、お店(みせ)を見(み)て回(まわ)るでしょ。そうすると、安くてすてきな物(もの)がいっぱいあって、いつも持ち込んだ物の倍(ばい)くらい買って帰(かえ)ることになるのよ。

Mrs. Okubo: I have lots of clothes I don’t need that I’m fed up with or are out of fashion. I want to chuck them, but …

Mother: I always take those kinds of things to a recycle shop; they buy them there. This season, they are happy to buy autumn wear, but at a low price.

Mrs. Okubo: Oh, perhaps I should do that. Where’s the shop?

Mother: In front of Narimasu Station.

Mrs. Okubo: Is it on the Tojo Line? That’s far! But if the transport costs more than the price I’d get, it’d be better to throw them away. Also, it would make some room in that closet, and then there’d be more space in the room.

Mother: Hmm, but not really.

Mrs. Okubo: Oh, why not?

Mother: As the clerk rings up my things, I take a look around. There are so many nice things at low prices, I always buy and take back twice as much as I came with.