What does obachan mean in Japanese

Anata, Kimi & Co .: The Japanese "You"

In September 2008 there was a political uproar in Japan during a press conference with then Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo. When a journalist criticized his resignation speech that his words sounded “indifferent and cold” in the ears of the people, Fukuda replied: “I can look at myself objectively. Anata to chigaun desu (I'm not like you). "

A harmless statement as long as you can hear it in German translation. But Fukuda's last sentence in Japanese received massive criticism and became a candidate for the Japanese version of "Unword of the Year". What went wrong here?

According to the linguist Suzuki Takao, Japanese personal designations about themselves or about the interlocutor are based on an antithesis between meue (Superior) and meshita (Inferior). The designation anata belongs to the category meshita. Mr. Fukuda has with his choice of words anata practically admitted that he regards the journalists, and thus also the people, as inferior to him. In this respect, the salutation should be anata translated as "you".

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historical development

The historical development shows that the polite designation for the 2nd person / s has changed over time. The name for the 2nd person kimi, which is now also translated as "you", used to be a respectful designation or form of address for the emperor, ruler or other high-ranking people. At some point, however, the meaning changed.

So it was with the name kisama with the polite suffix "-sama“. Kisama was still used respectfully as "you" in the written language of the Middle Ages. Nowadays is kisama only common among male buddies and is often called during scuffles to insult the opponent.

There are other similar terms for "you":

grandmae: Until the Edo period (1603-1868) the word meant "your honorable presence" and was used to address nobles and gods, because "o" is a prefix that expresses courtesy (e.g. o-cha = green tea, o-genki = Your health). Today will grandmae mostly used by male speakers on the one hand as a loving form of address for good friends, on the other hand as an insulting swear word. It is sometimes difficult to see in what sense the word is being used.

temae: The word originally meant “humble me”, but is used nowadays, especially in eastern Japan, as a more aggressive, insulting form of address for the 2nd person and temē pronounced.

The tendency that can be observed in these terms is called the "principle of diminishing courtesy" in Japan. The original respect words are used more and more in the normal population, so that they become stale and lose their respectful nuances, which is why new words of courtesy have to be created.

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Names for older family members such as otō-san (Father), onī-san (big Brother), onē-san (big sister), obā-chan (Granny), ojī-chan (Grandpa), oji-san (Uncle), oba-san (Aunt) are often used in the sense of “you”, the form of address being chosen from the point of view of the youngest member of the family.

Example: A woman says ...

... to her husband: Otō-san, bīru nomu? - Do you (dad) drink beer?

... to the older child: Onī-chan wa jūsu? - Do you drink (big brother) juice?

... to her mother: Obā-chan wa ocha? - Do you drink green tea, mom (grandma)?

Similar to the above, you are often addressed differently depending on your role, e.g. in shops:

  1. Oku-san / okā-san, kyō wa ii sakana ga yasui yo! - Dear strange wife / mother, good fish are cheap today!
  2. Onī-san, chotto kite. - Come here, please, young man!
  3. Onē-san, kore wa ikaga desu ka. - Dear Miss, how do you like this product?
  4. Obā-chan, kyō wa genki? - Are you okay grandma (e.g. a carer for a nursing home resident)

But please be careful with the salutation oba-san / oba-chan (Aunt) for middle-aged women! They usually don't feel flattered when spoken to in this way.