March 8, 2007

When polite becomes impolite, my predictions for nihongo

(warning, you'll probably only get it if you study Japanese, but I did try to put lots of clarification in here)
So I've been noticing something. A lot of things that have polite forms in the Japanese language are actually quite rude, utilizing a kind of sarcasm. For instance, 貴様 (kisama, bastard) essentially means "precious-good-sir". I'm under the impression that that one was always rude, but lately other polite forms seem to be gaining sarcastic meanings. For instance, a couple of people told me today that an honorific like, for example, おありだ (oarida, polite form of aru in "koto ga aru") could be considered to be bitingly sarcastic in some situations.  Then there are things like Onizuka's "Yoroshiku", which has furigana* suggesting every time he says it he thinks a sarcastic double meaning in his head (sorry forgot that how particular one goes).
Basically, my prediction is that within a generation, the kids that are nice enough to not conjugate everything along the e-dan (jyanei instead of jyanai, shinei instead of shinu, hidei instead of hidoi etc) like a yakuza, will still use keigo (polite language) with a sarcastic double meaning. The older generation will probably have no idea that every polite word in the language will by then be rude, and the younger generation will laugh to themselves.

*Is it still called furigana when they are kanji instead of kana or eiji?


  1. It seems to me that Keigo in general is being weeded out, and will be considerably thinner in the future, perhaps even by next generation. (Such is the nature of all languages)

    A lot of Japanese can only understand keigo, and few know how to use it perfectly. For example, the staff at McDonald's actually have to go through a keigo-training before they start work.

  2. inpolite=impolite. predition=prediction. conjigate=conjugate.

    夜露 yotsuyu but he says yoro and 死 and 苦 to make yoroshiku. but what do you mean about furigana? hiragana written above kanji for pronunciation is furigana right? it's more like usoji i think?

    and what about double negatives? do people use those in japanese?

  3. so, you could have saved yourself some time and said "run spellcheck".
    Now then, wiki furigana, and I'll look for the definition of usoji.
    Double negatives are indeed used in Japanese (~nakatta koto ga nai), but I don't know if they are ever used in a sarcastic sense.

    Also, name?

  4. usoji=incorrect character. Now then, Onizuka may use usoji, but I was speculating as to whether kanji appearing where furigana usually does counts as furigana too. Do you know?

  5. no, i don't know, sorry. but now i have a question. if the kanji is one thing but the furigana is obviously another word, is that still just furigana or is it called something special? like having the kanji for "uchuu" but "sora" written above it.

  6. interesting observation. The future doesn't look optimistic though if all this sarcasm is getting to be widely accepted.

  7. I play this foolish game with words that sound like negatives (詰まらない、危ない、etc) and make them double or triple and just keep reconjugating them until they are nonsensical, and you lose track of whether it's positive or negative. Childish, I know, but mildly entertaining. (In fact, you could say that it's 詰まらなくなくなくなくなくなくなくなくなくなくなくなくない。) I'm a sad person, I think. Ha ha.

  8. Hello. Your vlog has been posted to the livejournal forum called "jetjapan" (here: , are you knowing?), and so I investigated a little bit more, and found out that you live in Tara! I'm an ALT Omura, Nagasaki! I've actually been to Tara for an onsen! Let's be superficial friends on the internet? Zehi-ni, check out my blog becuse we have much in common:

  9. that is so non-non-non-non-non-non-non heinous

  10. Ha ha ha - 2 things. 1) I think 詰まらない also translates to "boring," which I tried to imply. Ha ha. I fail at jokes in Japanese - unless they're 親父ギャグ. Sigh. 2) Was thinking about your theory - and it made me wonder about the 4th textbook (which I imagine you're plowing through at the same time as me). It talks about how the -おる form is polite. Meanwhile, on Jon's blog, he had a recent entry on the -ている/-とう conjugation patterns. Now, perhaps I'm creating connections between unconnected things, as I am wont to do, but this could be an example of your theory. The polite form -おる could be what led the dialect to adopt a similar sounding impolite 方言. In my 伯方島弁 it sounds much closer to being true than in Jon's 博多弁. (We don't add another と on the end to replace の in casual interrogatives. Though we frequently punch the の into the ground by making it a final ん.) Anyhoo - just offering my uneducated guesses. :-)


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