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What's the difference between 火を噴いて{ふいて} and 火を吐いて{はいて}?

Both seems to mean fire-spitting, like a fire-breathing dragon, but is there any difference in their nuances?

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Unsupported gut feeling: 噴く seems more forceful than 吐く –  Flaw Jan 30 '13 at 7:11
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@Flaw: I agree as an unsupported gut feeling. Another unsupported feeling: The number of strokes in kanji is playing some role in the impression the words give to me. It is as if 噴 (15 strokes) is 2.5 times more powerful than 吐 (6 strokes). –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 30 '13 at 23:12
    
@TsuyoshiIto Saying ふく requires me to expel more air than saying つく. If 吐く is read as はく, the air expelled by ふく has higher pressure than compared to はく. –  Flaw Feb 10 '13 at 15:33
    
@Flaw: I had never thought of reading つく for 吐く in 火を吐く. The meaning of つく is quite limited when used for an object other than 息. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 10 '13 at 16:02
    
@TsuyoshiIto I did not know which reading is more suitable. So I tried to guess for both cases why ふく might seem stronger. –  Flaw Feb 10 '13 at 16:06

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This seems like a reach even to me, but here goes.

The dictionary entry for 吐【は】く that I'm seeing shows usages of 息などを出す and 胃/肺/口の中のものを口/鼻から出す. This seems to imply that the fire is inside of the thing (dragon, etc.) and is coming out. As opposed to the fire being generated at the "exit point" or externally (like just outside the dragon's mouth). Even in your examples, "fire-spitting" vs. "fire-breathing" seems to kind of indicate this. 吐く also usually implies coming out of the mouth or nose. So if the dragon's fire is coming out of its arse/ears/other orifice(?), maybe 吐く wouldn't be applicable.

But overall they seem interchangeable. And if a dragon is shooting fire at you at all, put down your Japanese book and get the hell outta there!

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