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Read the air !


20 Jul 2007
In Japanese language, there is a phrase/idiom ツ「窶ケテウ窶ケC窶堙ー窶愿??堙淞 ツ!ツ」
The phrase/idiom means " Sense the atmosphere ! " or " Feel the atmosphere ( and you should behave well) !"

Here, I have a question.
When a Japanese say ' Read the air ! " in the meaning of the above, do English native speakers understand what the Japanese is saying ?
What do you think ?
I think most people, depending on the context, would understand that you are not telling them to literally "read" the air. Most people would take it that you are saying more along the lines of, "Observe the air!" However, I don't think people would understand that you meant, "Read the air! (and you should behave well)". They would just understand the "Read the air!" part.
In English, the 'air' itself does not have a significant status as being something that communicates. To 'read' it does not immediately register with me. A similar phrase about 'wind' does, however. To borrow from L.A. Woman by Jim Morrison:

'Took a look around to see which way the wind blows'

The way the wind blows, 'the prevailing winds', these are accepted in English as ways to talk about 'reading the atmosphere' and seeing what people around you are doing. This is extended to economics through the term 'trade winds'.
A slang version of "Read the air" in English might be "Feel the vibes (vibrations)". Saying simply "Read the air" wouldn't be understood by most native English speakers. We seem to have only slang versions of that expression: "Get with it", "Go with the flow", "Ride the waves", etc. (if I'm understanding the meaning of "Read the air" correctly).
The original person who posted this question no longer seems to be active... oh well...

I have read the phrase, '...the air was so thick, you could cut it like a knife...', meaning there was a tense atmosphere... and that care is needed so social blunders are not exacerbated...

hmmm, maybe that is cut it with a knife... I will have to go and try to find references to it now... memory fails me...

Perhaps this was the sort of thing he was looking for...
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read the air seems to make sense to me. Of course it would take me a second to think about and process it in my brain but i would probably get it. Read the air seems to indicate that you should study the atmosphere of your surroundings. Obviously it's not literal. I would probably understand it the first time i heard it but i would also probably ask just to be sure.
Ouch !

The original person who posted this question no longer seems to be active... oh well...

Wish I had a dollar for every member who joins and never logs on again. Or like this, a question or two and disappear. A type of forum rape it seems.

Uncle Frank

I have heard "I can feel it in the air" in English, on more than one occasion. So the sentiment is certainly transferable. That said, though, I don't think an English speaker would generally direct a person to 'the air' or 'the ambiance' or 'the vibes' in order to understand a situation.

If a person does not understand how to act or behave, they would probably be given a literal explanation instead of being directed to feel the ambiance or air. However, if the situation was casual and unimportant, they might indeed be instructed to "just go with the flow" - which is the same sort of thing.

I would understand what you meant if you said that to me. Or, at least I think I would. Heh.
Other phrases in English that's simliar to what you're saying are "read between the lines" and "Take a look around you." Read between the lines is generally used by older speakers, however, in some areas.
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