Do you have a nickname? Do you like it? Today some elementary schools in Japan are telling students not to call their classmates by nicknames. Some schools go far as to have all students call each other by last names with the gender-neutral honorifics.
This is to stop bullying between students, and while I’m all for schools wanting to create a safe environment, I can’t help feeling bad for kids. It’s a feeling shared by many Japanese adults nostalgic for their school days. Calling someone by their nickname is an expression of one’s affection for the person, and by all means, kids should have the right to do so.
Perhaps this is more so in Japan, where the age difference puts so many restrictions on addressing others and the language we use. In fact, as an adult, I rarely get called by my first name or use the tameguchi (タメ口ぐち) form (informal speech in Japanese) unless I’m with my old friends from school.
I might still use tameguchi with people of the same age, but I find it hard to get another step closer and call them by their first names.
There’s something very intimate about calling people by their first names or nicknames in Japan because Japanese people use various honorific titles when addressing others. Still, it’s because of this system that addressing someone by their nickname or first name becomes a sign of a close relationship.
So let’s look at how Japanese people address others in different stages of life, from elementary school to when they are out of school.
Elementary school (ages 6-12)
Teachers generally call students by last names and use the honorific さん (san) for girls and くん (kun) for boys. Kids call each other by first names, nicknames or last names with or without the honorifics.
Click here to read more.
- External Link