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Thread: What does this mean in the Japanese language?

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    Default What does this mean in the Japanese language?

    Hey guys, I have watched anime for as long as I can remember, and a lot of which has the english subtitles, so I hear a lot of the japanese language spoken. Now, sometimes when names are spoken they have words that follow their names sometimes like:

    -sama
    -dono
    -san

    I thought maybe it was for females and males, but I don't think that is it. Thanks!
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    They are known as honorifics, and are kinda similar to the Mr/Mrs of English.

    -sama = Used to address a high standing individual, like a boss, or a Lord.
    -dono = Not sure about this one, but according to my grammar books, it is a form of address used for official letters and business letters, and in letters to inferiors
    -san = The most common honorific, translates roughly as Mr./Mrs.

    Others include:

    -chan = An affectionate honorific, used for adults when referring to children, to partners. A lot of the time it is used for young girls by other people.
    -kun = Used normally for young boys, or for men who are familiar with each other, though it can be used otherwise.
    -sensei = Used for teachers and doctors (not sure who else). It can be used as a substitute for the person's name.

    Just remember that you cannot use these one your own name, only on other people's names.

    N.B. If I made a usage mistake, feel free to correct me anyone.
    Last edited by isaacsol; 08-26-2009 at 03:33 AM.

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    What isaacsol said. I made the mistake of using san when addressing myself.
    ....

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    Oh, alright, yeah that makes a lot of sense when I think back to how they were used in the animes. Thanks for the clear answer!
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    Isaacsol has it pretty much. The only one I think he's got wrong is "-dono". As far as I've seen this is used to mean "Lord". It's not really in current everyday usage anymore. You can look on the wikipedia article for more information about honorifics:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_honorifics

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    "dono" could mean "which"too,couldn't it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by milenium3 View Post
    "dono" could mean "which"too,couldn't it?
    Yes, but the "dono" they're talking about here is an honorific.

    Note that there are many words in Japanese that could be translated as "which", but they are never the same. Look here for more information:

    http://japanese.about.com/library/bllesson27.htm
     

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    Thanks for correcting -dono, I had to use some references, and even they were sketchy at best.

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    sama-for someone you respect.
    dono- lord ,king ,master.
    san-for someone you that is older than you or just use for maners when you just meet someone.

    kun-for guys ,neve for a girl. also for a guy that is younger than you.its better not to use it on someone older than you.
    chan-for a girl,could be used for a boy too,but is better for a girl.also best if you use it for people younger than you.

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    sama - this day and age is almost only used for customers..i.e kyakusama (i hate using romaji but i believe that is correct if converted to romaji). you will also be adressed by customer service as ...naninani-sama

    dono- is pretty much only used for lord or sir....something. such as ochazukeinori's mushidono Sir Bugs/Insects. Yeah you pretty much never hear it at all. Maybe video games/anime/manga thats about it.

    san - its commonly used when meeting someone for the first time to be polite and only with the last name. also at work and in formal settings you will be called naninani-san

    did you also know...

    kun and chan?

    chan is used for small children and loosely translates to little mister or little miss.

    kun is only used for boys but once again is a cute title that translates to little mister.

    ---wait just saw the post above me already talked about chan and kun hence forth i am an idiot.
    Last edited by Unrested; 10-21-2009 at 01:31 AM.

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    Well you can also use -kun to lower the distance between you and another person, you can use it for men and women when you think -san is too polite...
    That is from my experience...But usage might be contextual.

    Chan is for animals, girls and probably to mock good friends of you :P
    -dono is not being used today...
    Last edited by LavaBug; 10-21-2009 at 06:23 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaBug View Post
    Well you can also use -kun to lower the distance between you and another person, you can use it for men and women when you think -san is too polite...
    That is from my experience...But usage might be contextual.

    Chan is for animals, girls and probably to mock good friends of you :P
    -dono is not being used today...
    kun for a woman? are you sure? I have never heard it used for anything but very young boys or maybe as a joking way to address a good male friend.

    you could use kun to make someone sound lower than you, but they better be a good friend or they might get really offended. As far as creating distance - I would have to disagree as kun is most commonly used for close friends and family only.

    chan for animals? well maybe as a pet, but even young children when naming animals address them as san.
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    I meant it's for LOWERING distance...
    Also I heard -kun being used for women in my club...And my teacher using it for some people on a few occasions...but that's when I admitted it's contextual...

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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaBug View Post
    I meant it's for LOWERING distance...
    Also I heard -kun being used for women in my club...And my teacher using it for some people on a few occasions...but that's when I admitted it's contextual...
    wow kun for women? well i suppose there could be something behind it that i totally dont understand. even after 4 years of learning and 3 year living in japan i have never seen a woman addressed that way, but there are still inside jokes or meanings i still dont get within japanese culture. so i never count out anything from being used in a way i never heard.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unrested View Post
    wow kun for women? well i suppose there could be something behind it that i totally dont understand. even after 4 years of learning and 3 year living in japan i have never seen a woman addressed that way, but there are still inside jokes or meanings i still dont get within japanese culture. so i never count out anything from being used in a way i never heard.
    There are occasions where a male superior (like the boss at a workplace) will address a female subordinate with the honorific"-kun".

    The whole "-kun / -san" thing has become (rather needlessly, in my opinion) confused for the most part because of issues in male/female equality. For example, when I was in grade school, the government suddenly decided that it was proper for teachers to call students of both sexes with "-san" to supposedly avoid "discrimination".

    There are some specific cases where a female may be addressed with a "-kun", for what I suppose are similar reasons.

    This is sort of a difficult point, but what's important is to notice the sharply patronizing tone of the honorific "-kun"; if I were to guess, calling a female "-kun" was paradoxically a sort of acknowledgement of women's advancement within the male hierarchical order; of treating them as equals to men, in the sense that they should expect to receive no special treatment (the tone of deference in "-san" would imply almost a kind of chivalry on the part of the man towards the woman, which is less explicitly but more implicitly patronizing; women command respect, but they can't participate in the male pecking order, if you will).

    As such, personally the idea of calling a woman "-kun" strikes me as a very, shall we say, 80's fad. Nowadays men and woman are usually addressed with a "-san".
    Last edited by Datenshi; 10-22-2009 at 04:56 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datenshi View Post
    There are occasions where a male superior (like the boss at a workplace) will address a female subordinate with the honorific"-kun".

    The whole "-kun / -san" thing has become (rather needlessly, in my opinion) confused for the most part because of issues in male/female equality. For example, when I was in grade school, the government suddenly decided that it was proper for teachers to call students of both sexes with "-san" to supposedly avoid "discrimination".

    There are some specific cases where a female may be addressed with a "-kun", for what I suppose are similar reasons.

    This is sort of a difficult point, but what's important is to notice the sharply patronizing tone of the honorific "-kun"; if I were to guess, calling a female "-kun" was paradoxically a sort of acknowledgement of women's advancement within the male hierarchical order; of treating them as equals to men, in the sense that they should expect to receive no special treatment (the tone of deference in "-san" would imply almost a kind of chivalry on the part of the man towards the woman, which is less explicitly but more implicitly patronizing; women command respect, but they can't participate in the male pecking order, if you will).

    As such, personally the idea of calling a woman "-kun" strikes me as a very, shall we say, 80's fad. Nowadays men and woman are usually addressed with a "-san".
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    Can we maybe just have a sticky that elaborates the meaning of these things? This has got to be the most frequently asked question here.

    But since we're on the topic, I'll go ahead and give my understanding of some of the appellations:
    • -san: equivalent in many respects to what Mister or Miss once meant in English, and used for virtually anybody you don't know on at least a somewhat intimate basis. Among people you are more closely familiar with, it's used as a sign of respect, and if there's no more appropriate position title (taichou or senpai, as random examples), then you use -san for every person of higher position than you in an organization you belong to.

      -kun: There are essentially two distinct callings for this title. The common one that every Japan-obsessed nerd knows is that it's used among friends, generally male, especially where the much more personal "-chan" would feel awkward—guys interested in preserving something of a "macho" or even "mature" attitude would be unlikely to use an honorific as intimate as "-chan" with other men. The second, and far more universal, use for it is to any subordinate, male or female—ranging from the military world to the business world, and being especially common in academic fields—whether it be a professor to a kohai professor, or a teacher to a student, "-kun" is used with much the same formality that "-san" would be for a person of higher authority/position; alternatively, it can be used in much the same way "-san" is among people of equal authority/position, though there it's meant in a somewhat less formal way—for instance, students of the same grade level addressing each other as "-kun."

      -chan: A common misconception is that -chan is used almost exclusively for girls. It isn't. What it essentially amounts to is a much more intimate form of "-san," and, as I mentioned in the explanation for "-kun," guys, being guys, tend to prefer not to show that level of intimacy with other guys; it's not unusual, however, to see women, especially mothers or women who have otherwise known the guy in question since early childhood, to use it on another guy—hence why you see, for example, Momo calling Hitsugaya "Shiro-chan," despite his superior status, and much to his constant dismay. It's not unheard of for guys to refer to other guys as "-chan," though such use is often either extremely patronizing, or indicative of a lack of manliness.

      -chin, -cchi, -tan: Similar in concept to "-chan," though these appellations either take the familiarity a step further, or else act as nickname-formers. Basically, they're "cuter" forms of "-chan"; as an example, many idols are addressed as "[Name]-tan" by their fans.

      -in, -on, similar: These are again similar to "-chan" or "-tan," in that they denote a high level of familiarity, though these are molded to the name proper, essentially making them nickname suffixes. Examples include Yukino in KareKano (who's called "Yukinon" by Aya, Rika, and Tsubaki) and "Kaorin" from AzuDai, whose proper name is actually Kaoru. Like nicknames in English, these can become so generalized, especially among students, that the person can become referred to almost exclusively by this variant, but, like Kaorin, you still wouldn't want a creepy, sexually harassive teacher to refer to you by your nickname.

      -sama: Basically, a super-formal version of "-san." It can be used patronizingly, but mostly it's used to denote a high level of respect for a person of at least equal, usually higher, authority/position. Servants and vassals would refer to their masters and lords (respectively) in this manner, though in modern society, outside of a servant-employer relationship, a completely honest use of the title would be rare.

      -chama: Currently very rare in modern speech, this title survives primarily in reference to the extremely elite, rich upper class (think Ouran High School Host Club). The most common usage is in "obocchama," which is a traditional way of referring to the sons of members of this class (the female equivalent being "ojou-san/sama"), though in common speech has largely become synonymous with "rich-boy." Yukino resentfully thinks of Arima that way in KareKano before later falling in love with him. What "-chama" ultimately is, however, is the same mutation of "-sama" as "-chan" is of "-san," and likewise represents a much greater degree of familiarity, though keeping intact the high status that is due the intended target. For instance, Kirimi Nekozawa in OHSHC calls her brother "Onii-chama."

      -dono: A largely feudal title, it was used differently at different time periods. In modern usage, it's limited almost entirely to legal documents, as isaacsol mentioned at the beginning of the thread, as legalese in Japanese is still rooted somewhere in the 19th century. It also has a less position/authority-dependent flavor than "-sama" in modern usage, and, for example, Yoruichi refers somewhat demeaningly to Byakuya using the "-dono" title.
      It's also far more connected to the idea of Japanese aristocracy than "-sama" is, and so, while you frequently see "-sama" used reference to Western-styled aristocrats in manga or anime, you find "-dono" being used by Hikaru and Kaoru in OHSHC to refer to Tamaki who, while he fancies himself a kingly or princely character, seems to them more like a stereotype of a kind of idiotic feudal lord hailing from Japan's past.

      -ue: Most commonly seen in extremely formal family addresses, and not at all common in modern usage. Appropriate when there is very little intimacy (or when very little should be shown, such as in public situations) in a family of high status; you would append "-ue" to the end of the more formal family titles (chichiue, instead of otou-san, hahaue instead of okaa-san, aniue instead of onii-san, aneue instead of onee-san, and so forth).

      -nii-san/chan, -nee-san/chan, -ji-san/chan, etc.: Some of the familial titles can themselves be used as appellations, usually when referring to somebody familiar but older than you. Nii/nee-san are typically reserved for those older than you, though still relatively young (generally under thirty), while ji/ba-san are typically reserved for those of middle-age or older. They can also be used as titles in themselves for people you aren't familiar with, though usually without the name of the person attached. If you wanted to call to your attention a young waitress, for example, you might say "Ne, soko no onee-san, [...]"

      : There being nothing attached to a name often carries more meaning than any honorific or appellation; it's indicative of extreme intimacy, and is usually reserved exclusively for familial relationships (and then only used by the older family member towards the younger), romantic relationships, and very intimate friendships. It's so intimate that dropping the title in casual conversation will usually provoke titters and even rumors, especially if the person who doesn't use the title is of the opposite gender from the person to whom they were referring. (See Nayuta in Gakuen Senki Muryou.)

      Most other major titles are position dependant, such as "-senpai," "-sensei," "-shihan," "-hime," "-taichou," etc.; and because of that are much easier and more straightforward to use.
    Last edited by Vagrere; 10-28-2009 at 12:22 PM.

  18. #18
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    I had the same idea about the sticky...
    Question is: New thread that indicates the contents in the title or just sticky this one ?
    What you do think ?

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    New sticky that indicates some more or less officially accepted explanation for what all the titles mean, I was thinking. I guess it's up to you to decide what would qualify for that; but I think this thread has too many conflicting opinions to settle anything.

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