Green Around the Gills


During break time the other day, I was standing around with my glasses off chatting with some of the more social kids. Suddenly, one girl said, “Sensei, massao!!!” There was a certain alarm to her voice.

Massao (真っ青) is written with two characters meaning ‘true’ and ‘blue/blue-green’. When used to describe the sky, it refers to a beautiful clear sky; however, when used in reference to a face it means ‘pale’, or ‘sickly’.

I responded back that I was feeling a little like a sore throat might be coming on, but didn’t think I looked that bad.

She said, “No, no. Your eyes!” Talk about mistaken impressions.

Other colors can also be combined with the first character:

  • Makka 真っ赤 beet red
  • Makkuro 真っ黒 pitch black
  • Masshiro 真っ白 snow-white

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