lifestyle

What’s in a name: Honorifics, titles and nicknames in Japan

11 Comments
By Mina Otsuka

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.

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11 Comments
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Why did I read that?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

At least this is traditional, and not like the politically correct lunacy of preferred pronouns that is being forced on Americans.

The hijacking of the traditional plural pronouns is confusing at best.

The oversensitive gender people should come up with new pronouns, and not appropriate existing ones and then expect the majority to know tow to their idiosyncrasies.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I thought....

"さん" is mainly used for adults.

For children, use "くん(kun)" for boys and "ちゃん(chan)" for girls.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As for using surname with -san for adults in polite situations….does anyone else have the experience of being addressed by given name plus-san, on a regular basis? I find that overwhelmingly people tend to call me by my given name, regardless of the relationship.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The majority of people call me Zichi san, which isn’t my given name. It’s my artist name. Never been called by my first name, which is on my meishi. The only time people call me by my family name is at the hospital and places like that. Wife usually calls me Zichi chan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And that’s where all the problems start.

get rid of all the prefixes, suffixes, Sempai, kohai and whatever nonsense.

call them by their legal first or last name, the end.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Nowadays you better ask beforehand how to correctly address someone, or if you may use a more familiar suffix. If you get into some ‘woken’ you are already very much in trouble when saying -Chan to a kindergarten girl. lol But usually it’s not a problem with -San for children and the same -San or more respectfully -Sama for adults. That should be sufficient to avoid the very most irritating or disputable cases.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Can't really avoid trouble with all the people looking to get offended

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But usually it’s not a problem with -San for children and the same -San or more respectfully -Sama for adults.

Be careful how and when you use -Sama. In Japanese as in English, being over-polite can be taken as sarcastic, or as an insult.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@shogun36

get rid of all the prefixes, suffixes, Sempai, kohai and whatever nonsense

Nonsense is the habit of forcing other cultures to be your way. The Japanese language is just fine as it is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Some schools go far as to have all students call each other by last names with the gender-neutral honorifics."

This is positive Pro LGBT+ action. It's insane the writer is complaining about this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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