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Japanese Honorifics Question: mid-thirties businessman to highschool female?
ffvii; cid; that immortal quote
yesthatnagia wrote in little_details
I have searched read the Wikipedia page on honorifics and searched google with various phrasings like "actual usage of chan" and "enjo kosai honorifics", but at this point the general How Not To Offend All The People advice isn't what I need.

My situation is this: for the past few weeks, a moderately successful corporate laywer (between thirty-four and thirty-six) has been talking to a sixteen year old girl on the ride back home. They're basically trying to discuss the possibility of compensated dating, though they haven't really gotten that far.

I have lots of questions here, but they boil down to: is compensated dating (without sex) ever intimate enough for given names to be used, or would that still be inappropriate?

If my laywer were going to deliberately startle my highschooler by being overly familiar/intimate, would he shorten her given name before the honorific, or would he just call her by her given name?

Some leeway is fine, since for Inexplicable Plot Reasons, inhibitions are going to be lowered. But I'd still like to have some idea of where they stand on the social superior/inferior scale, even if the actual honorifics don't make it to the final draft.

Given those two characters in that situation, it's going to be hard for him to be overly familiar or informal - he's the man, older, and sort of a customer! If he's been polite and a bit distant previously, it will be the sudden change more than any particular term (or lack of it) that is surprising. So if he's been Sato-san or Akiko-san then suddenly starts calling her Aki, that's startling; if he's been calling her Akiko or Aki-chan or something already, not so much.

I think he could go from Akiko-san to Akiko-kun, which is sometimes also used for young girls (even though it's more common to be used for boys). It's still polite, but also a bit more informal than san. Don't you think?

I don't think it would be startling like the OP requested, though.

It could be. I've seen instances where girls weren't used to be called "-kun" and were startled. I think it depends on a lot of factors.

I'd say the implications are quite different. Usually girls are called -kun in the sense of being on an athletic team or a club or perhaps a juku - where the context would be exhorting her to do her best. The girls I know who were called -kun were mostly called so by their peers (it might be part of the club culture, for example, that all the kohai are -kun). I have never heard a teacher call a student -kun (20 years teaching here, grades 3-12).

I'd say that if they use names they'd likely be on formal terms (Akiko-san, Tanaka-san, depending on whether she trusts him with her last name - though if she's in school uniform he'd be able to track her down easily anyway). Yobi-sute is probably the best way to suddenly change forms of address (suddenly call her Akiko). Though he may never have learnt her name: asking might seem too forward, and she might very well be leery of telling. So he might suddenly start using a different form of you - anta, for example. I'd be quite startled! (Adults to preschool girls often address them as 'watashi', but that would be creepy in this circumstance; he might also use 'kimi', or if suddenly speaking rougher, 'omae'... my husband got angry at me for using that once!).

(Also, I think the term most often used in English is compensated dating. I think most girls who wanted to set up something like that would *not* be doing it on their commute and in their school uniforms. People on trains pay attention to students: we often get calls to my school that students, for example, left rubbish on the seats or blocked the doorways. Some girls do keep shifuku in a coin locker and change out of their uniform for the purpose of... getting up to no good, but often teachers patrol local stations, and station employees will again call the school if they catch her.)

Oh, okay, I didn't know that. Thanks for explaining :) I did study Japanese for a while, but I haven't been immersed in everyday life in Japan, so I didn't know that much about the usage of "-kun". I heard it a couple of times in different contexts, but I was never sure when the appropriate situation for using it would be.

I do still regret not having studied abroad

My apologies to the OP for butting in without anything useful to contribute to the question, but this comment fascinated me too much.

If you don't mind the follow-up question... a student would not be allowed to change out of her uniform? On what grounds does this work? I have picked up the odd thing about Japanese schools from, erm, watching dramas, and was aware that they extend into students' lives in ways that would be very unfamiliar to me, but the idea of teachers patrolling local stations and students being in trouble if they change out of their uniform is...different even from that.

A lot of dramas, I think, are based in Tokyo or written by people in Tokyo, and it's a bit like US high school dramas set in CA where all the students are white and rich and have pools and cars -- i.e., not much like real life for most people.

High schools are not compulsory education; students go because they want to, and they obey the school rules because if they don't and they get kicked out, that's a waste of time and money. At my former school, students went from home to school and back in uniform; that was the rule (but: girls' school, 20 years ago). Mostly what teachers patrolled for was students hiking up their skirts and wearing make-up--going for the 'sexy schoolgirl' look. But in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, students might want to get around and not look like students *shrugs*

At my current school we are stationed at points from the station to the school and check that students a) cross at crosswalks, b) don't wear headphones, c) walk on one side of the sidewalk, d) and reply to cheerful morning greetings (we collect statistics on our cheerful morning greeting reply rate; it is presented at meetings.)

When I was in school in Japan the rule was you were not allowed to do 'social' activities in your school uniform, like go out to eat dinner or go to the movies or shopping etc. My host sister got a bit nervous when her mother took me and her out to dinner after we got off the train from school once without going home to change first. Then on a separate occasion when we were going to Harajuku from school we bought casual clothes with us but didn't change until we got to the station bathrooms. The point I'm getting at- it'll be different for each school. Our school was quite exclusive so they wouldn't have wanted any shifty business in school uniform (not that the girls I was friends with even did anything remotely shifty) so they mandated that you had to not wear it socially.

I have no idea how I managed to type "compensating" instead of "compensated" so consistently. Maybe I was tired. I am just fantastic at looking like even more of a moron than I actually am, I guess.

I confess I'm a little curious: people on trains would automatically be suspicious of a polite, appropriately dressed (but not overly fashionable) teenaged girl carrying on a polite, low-key conversation with an older man?

Eh, no worries *g* These things happen. (My kid still rags on me that I've written his name wrong all his life, and he never realized it until he learned that kanji in school, and THEN, OH, all the embarrassment.)

I'd say it would all depend on the nature of the conversation? Like, if they sound like they might be father/daughter or neighbors or teacher/student, some kind of socially-acceptable relationship, people probably wouldn't pay much attention, especially if their conversation was along the lines of, "It's cold today... yes, isn't it... don't catch flu... I'll try... how was bunkasai?... same old...." But some guy starting up, "Ne-, kimi", yeah, people would keep an eye on that, especially other women. (I don't know where your story is set, but around here people don't really talk on trains - maybe groups of students, but everyone bad-eyes them for being loud. Most people play games or listen to music or read.)

Story's set in the Tokyo metropolis, and most (if not all) of the action takes place in one particular car on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, headed ostensibly for Higashikurume. Though most passengers are going to end up staying on until Hanno. When the dust clears, none of them is going to be happy about that...

So far, they've been distant and polite. Names have been exchanged and are used formally (he's Taniguchi-san to her; she's Motoko-san to him). When they talk, it's at non-disruptive volumes and usually about shenanigans by the unnamed second-string violinist in her private class, nerding out about western classical music, etc.

They try to make damn sure that listeners would assume he knows her her instructor or the second-string violinist. Their problem is, in fact, that they spend so much effort on not seeming suspicious that they haven't even started negotiating yet. Although I guess only they would consider that a problem.

Girl cannot be -kun. Kun sticks only to males

And the source of your expertise is...?

Well, only my own experience and my living in Japan.

I have heard it though a couple of times for girls. Apparently it can be used in business settings and it was mentioned earlier that girls are sometimes addressed with "-kun" by their male peers.



Edited at 2013-05-02 10:26 pm (UTC)

I have never heard within my 15 years of living in Japan calling girls, for example, Akiko-kun. It's like to say in English "tovarish Reagan" :)))

Well, I have lived in Austria all my life (27 years) and I had never heard people use certain words that are only used within a certain dialect, until I happened to hear them a couple of months ago. Does that mean they don't exist? No.
"-kun" is extremely rarely used. More often in fiction and less likely in real life, but it does happen.

I know a bit of Russian and a honorific is not like calling someone "tovarish" ;)

Well, I'm not gonna be your most hated man, so I say once again: Japanese never end female names with "-kun". Only "San" or "Chan" (when she's pretty).
"Kun" is destined only fo boys (males if you do not object).

And finally, I was just looking for my Japanese wife in the Net. And the first the Google gave me was your Blog. Because her name was in it. We departed 2 years and I am still missing. So your bloody blog was a big mistake. Instead of finding my wife I received a bucket of bullshit. Thank you.

Not seeing how any of that is my problem. You posted a reply that has been substantiated by others, who have lived in JP for 20 years, as incorrect in a year-old thread. I called you out on it and asked you to leave.

Never thought that Americans are more aggressive than Russians. If all Americans are like you, your country needs no any nuclear bombs. Hope you will have mercy for Ukraine. Otherwise, I will strike back.

Do you wanna me see your face? No nightmares tonight.

It's not that u lookin' good. Hangover?

I would say it depends on what he already calls her. If he calls her Akiko-san or some such, then switching to no honorific might be best for your purposes. On the other hand, I tend to think of -chan as a more lighthearted, friendly thing—if he's going to start talking about his dark past or something he might start off with "Ne, Atchan..." to lighten the mood.

But really it mostly depends on his personality. If he's a serious person it would be "Akiko" or if he's more friendly and maybe feeling kind of immature it might be "Atchan" or some other nickname. (*leans down* "Akiko, I've been wondering..." "Atchan, let's go!" *grabs hand and pulls along*)

If you're thinking about switching pronouns rather than names, as someone recommended above, I would definitely suggest "kimi".

From my experience (studied Japanese with varying levels of intensity for 13 years, been to Japan for a Study Tour/school exchange), the formality levels would kinda go as such (could apply to any characters):

Name-Sama this is VERY formal, he would not call her this unless she was literally a princess or something. HIGHLY honourable, saved for people like school principals, royalty etc.
Surname-San Probably good for when they first meet, quite isolated still with no connotations at all.
Name-San More friendly than the surname, but still nothing uncouth. This would be fine for normal conversation, even first meeting if she introduced herself with her first name. You could make a thing of the change from surname-san to first name-san, if you wished, to show a development from strangers/acquaintances to friends.
Name-Chan typically used for instances like your own children (ie your daughter may be Akiko-chan), this can also be used between good friends, kind of implies cuteness, normally said by older people to younger/inferior people, but not in a negative way... it's a bit hard to explain, but I wouldn't necessarily call it romantic. I got a card from the girls I was friends with while in Japan when I left, and they used 'chan' there after my name, so its good between friends.
Name (no honourific) this would probably be your best bet for intimacy, since it's not as common between just acquaintances. The change from name-san to just name would be quite notable, if she didn't feel the closeness between them equally it could be very forward, too much so even. The exception for this is, say, an emergency- no one is going to notice the difference between 'Akiko San' and 'Akiko' if you're trying to find a lost kid in a forest. In that circumstance, its just a name.

Another thing that kind of goes with this- whoever is the 'lowest' ranked of the pair in the discussion (eg the student, if a student was talking to the principal) will give the lowest bow when greeting one another. As in, the student would bow deeper than the principal.
Hopefully that helps give you some bearing in the world of honourifics!

"Chan" emphisizes your priettiness. Nothing more. If it were US you could suit them all for Sekuhara (so they call sexual harassment).
Ha-ha :))

You know, your need to emphasize your ~fifteen years experience~ living there over everybody else who has spent time studying or living in Japan is getting to be obnoxious, and I could have done without your little shitfit argument with toshi_hakari.

If you've got some immense problem with what other people are saying and need to correct them, rather than posting on a year-old thread, could you do my inbox a favor and take it to PM's? Thanks in advance.

I'm sorry. I had no intention to hurt you.