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otosan okasan 老头子,老妈子?& Chinese Honorifics


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Like -san, 子 was an honorific in the past (孔子,老子,孟子 etc...). In Cantonese, many people still call their parents, 老头子,老妈子。I was wondering if there's any connection between the Japanese o-too-san o-kaa-san and 老头子 老妈子, and also o-jii-san 老爷子。Just some wild thought...

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Maybe. If there was, it would be an interesting etymological connection. But I will just put my two cents seeing as I am not too sure on the topic. San comes from "(mdrn)yang4, (jpn)you, sama." So, it doesn't seem that there is any connection, because zi3 is completely different. Just a thought though.

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HashiriKata
子 was an honorific in the past (孔子,老子,孟子 etc...).
This usage of 子 exists in Japanese, but it has evolved to such extent that it's nowadays used only as a suffix for names for girls (read as ko): Mariko, Fumiko, Yoko, etc. (The JR station Ian Lee mentioned is called Abiko)

The "san" in Otosan, Okasan, etc, I believe, is native Japanese (therefore, there's no 汉字 for it), and its usage is also different from that of 子 in earlier Chinese. The 子 in Chinese works more or less as an integral part of the name (孔子,老子,孟子 etc...), whereas the "san" in Japanese is used more often like a title added to a name (Think of Mr, Ms, Miss, etc). Therefore, we can have Quest san, Lee san, John san, etc (and when the situation requires it, "san" can easily be replaced by something else.)

I wonder why and when they abandonned(or changed) all the honorifics and polite languages.
They'd perhaps seen what a burden and how tricky the use of humble and respect languages can be? :mrgreen: (Even Japanese themselves need to be formally trained to use these varieties properly!)
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The 子 in Chinese works more or less as an integral part of the name (孔子,老子,孟子 etc...), whereas the "san" in Japanese is used more often like a title added to a name (Think of Mr, Ms, Miss, etc).

子 or 夫子 is an honorific title added to the names of men with knowledge. The reason people now would think of it as an integral part of the name is because the 子 title is no longer used. I think the Chinese honorific system had been lost and then revived and westernized...however, many Chinese people do understand the meaning of the different honorifics though, even if they don't use them anymore.

Since 子 is supposedly a title exclusively for men, the fact that it is used in 老妈子 might suggest a different usage.

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Here's a summary of a couple paragraphs on that site regarding ancient Chinese humble/polite languages and honorifics. Pronouns were very rarely used in ancient China.

Humble Languages:

Addressing one's self, the different "I"s:

愚: I, the not so smart

鄙: I, the less educated

敝: I, the not good

卑: I, from a lower class

窃: I, the intruding

臣: I, the lower ranked offical

僕: I, who serves you

妾:I, your wife

Other "I"s:

在下: I, who's humbler and lower than you

小子/小妹:I, who's insignficant and young

老朽/老身: I, who's old and unable

老夫/老汉:I, the old man

老拙: I, who's old and clumsy

老衲: I, the old monk

老尼: I, the old nun

贫僧/贫尼: I, the poor monk/nun

For Kings:

孤: I, who's the ruler of a small kingdom

寡: I, who's the ruler of a small kingdom and with lesser virtue

不谷: I, the ruler of a small kingdom who's not virtuous

朕: I, the ruler of the empire

For gov officials:

下官/末官/小吏/卑职: I, the lower ranked and insignificant official

For scholars:

小生/晚生/晚学: I, who started my education later than you

不才/不佞: I, who's without talent

不肖: I, who did not respect you

etc

Addressing others the "You"s:

Kings: 万岁、圣上、圣驾、天子、陛下

Sons & brothers of Kings: 殿下

Generals: 麾下

卿: You, my(the emperor's) official

Embassadors: 节下;

Influential people: 阁下

By titles: 先生,老师

etc

Addressing others (Honorific Prefixes):

My Family members:

家: prefix to elder family members: 家父、家母、家兄、家姐

舍: prefix to younger family members: 舍弟、舍妹、舍侄

Your family members:

令-美好

令尊: your father

令堂: your mother

令阃: your wife

令兄: your elder brother

令郎: your son

令爱: your daughter

尊 - prefix for people YOU know

尊上: your parents

尊公、尊君、尊府: your father

尊堂: your mother

尊亲: your relative

尊驾: you, the precious guest

丈: prefix for old people

丈人: You, an elderly man

圣----holy prefix: 圣人,圣上

Friends:

贤-prefix for You, who's my age or younger

贤家: You

贤郎: your son

贤弟: your younger brother

仁 - You, who I care so much

仁兄: You, my older friend who I care

仁公: You, who's higher ranked and who I care

先 ---- prefix for dead elder people:

先帝: dead emperor

先考/先父: dead father

先慈/先妣: dead mother

先贤: dead knowledgeable

太/大: prefix for the elders: 太后,太父,太母

etc

Other honorifics (Suffixes):

君: a male friend

姬: 姑娘: females

子/夫子: a wise man

兄: a friend

公: a respected person

足下: a friend (used in letters)

先生: someone in a profession

大人: higher ranked official

儿: diminutive for a young person

etc

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HashiriKata

I haven't looked carefully at the list yet but the following item seems striking:

足下: my friend (used in letters)
How could anyone want to show respect to their friends by addressing them as someone "under (their) feet" ??? :conf
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I haven't looked carefully at the list yet but the following item seems striking:

Quote:

足下: my friend (used in letters)

How could anyone want to show respect to their friends by addressing them as someone "under (their) feet" ???

Take a look at this story ->

春秋時代晉國的公子重耳,因遭陷害而流亡國外十九年,跟隨他的大臣中,以介之推最為忠心。有一年,他們在山中迷路了,餓得頭昏眼花的,介之推就割下自己的大腿肉,烤熟了給重耳充饑,救了重耳一命。流亡十九年後,重耳終於回到晉國當了國君,即歷史上有名的晉文公。在晉文公即位封賞功臣時,獨獨忘掉了介之推,介之推本就不願求取功名,於是帶著母親到山裡隱居,不肯復出。後晉文公想起介之推,堅持要為介之推封侯晉爵,升官加祿,請介之推下山接受封賞。但介之推堅拒,不言祿亦不受祿,晉文公為了逼迫介之推下山,又心想他是個孝子,為了母親的安危一定會下山,於是下令放火燒山,卻仍不見介之推的蹤影。等火勢稍減,命人上山察看尋找,赫然發現介之推與母親抱著樹,燒死在火海之中。晉文公傷心欲絕,更悔恨自己的魯莽,身為介之推的好友,竟不懂得介之推的心思,不尊重介之推的決定。為了紀念這位曾經捨身相救的好友,晉文公砍下那棵樹,做成一雙木屐,想到介之推時,就看著那雙木屐,喊著:「足下啊!足下!」表示他對好友永遠的懷念。另外,又下令在介之推死的那一天,不准生火煮食,只能吃冷食。這就是寒食禁火的由來。

source

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HashiriKata

Thank you for the story, skylee. I think I now understand the story and the origin of 足下, but still not quite sure what Jin Wengong meant in crying out: 「足下啊!足下!」

Quest, I noticed some items in your list are still in common use in Japanese (僕 and 君 in particular), not to mention the well known 先生 (大人 simply means "adult" in Japanese, by the way).

I'm disappointed not to see listed terms referring to one's own relations (eg. my wife, my husband), as I expect them to be both hilarious and realistic :mrgreen:

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I'm disappointed not to see listed terms referring to one's own relations (eg. my wife, my husband), as I expect them to be both hilarious and realistic

Like 贱内? My wife, the worthless?

Between a couple

娘子/夫人: you, my wife

郎君/夫君: you, my husband

为夫: I, your husband

There are others...

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HashiriKata
Like 贱内? My wife, the worthless?
Something similar. I remember seeing somewhere in humble language where you add 愚 to words referring to your husband, wife, brothers, sisters, etc.
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Interesting stuff, guys. Quest, can you post the link, please?

I wonder if the Japanese honorific prefix (go-), now normally written in hiragana (ご), for example: 御馳走 or ご馳走 [go-chisō]- feast, treating (someone) is a pure Japanese invention or borrowed from Chinese. This prefix, unlike お (o-) usually precedes Sino-Japanese words, not pure Japanese.

Interesting that Japanese has a similar if not larger list of humble/honorific pronouns. And pronoun 貴様 (kisama) used to be honorific, now is a form of abuse...

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卿: You, my (the emperor's) official

I came across this one in an opera, now I'm afraid I totally mistranslated it... The king adresses his general with 小爱卿, how would you translate that?

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  • 3 weeks later...

君 is still commonly used in writing in Chinese today.

大人 in Shanghainese just means "adult"; and it's not a kiddy word, full grown adults use the term.

小人 in Shanghainese, guess what, just means "child". The word 小孩 does not exist in Shanghainese.

Doesn't Cantonese use some kind of -san (生?) ending for Mister as well? I keep hearing 周生、張生 etc.

I wonder if the Japanese honorific prefix 御 (go-), now normally written in hiragana (ご), for example: 御馳走 or ご馳走 [go-chisō']- feast, treating (someone) is a pure Japanese invention or borrowed from Chinese. This prefix, unlike お (o-) usually precedes Sino-Japanese words, not pure Japanese.

In rural Wu (吳) dialects, common nouns are sometimes preceded with an "ng" (used to be pronounced "ngo"; the number 5 五 in Shanghainese is also "ng" today, used to be "ngo"). This probably inspired the Japanese 御 go- or o- honorific prefix (like o-cha, o-tou-san, go-han, etc). Food/rice in those Wu dialects are "ng飯". This is becoming rarer though and today one can find this only in some rural villages around Shanghai.

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Doesn't Cantonese use some kind of -san (生?) ending for Mister as well? I keep hearing 周生、張生 etc.

Yes, but that's just the shorten form of 先生, like 周董 for 董事长, 张局 for 局长, 李科 for 科长。

I think these "missing links" should be studied before China goes through another standardization(mandarinization).

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I know some that are used in opera. hee hee.. (all my resources are from chinese opera. I love you, opera!)

官人- my husband

奴/奴家- I (only for females)

姐姐- you (strictly for a guy addressing a lady whom he likes)

本宫- me, the empress/concubine...

哀家- me, the mother of the emperor

小生- me, the scholar (humble)

'为' series

为夫- me, your husband

为妻-me, your wife

为娘- me, your mother

为父- me, your father

为军- me, the soldier

etc

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'为' series

There's also the "本" series for the "I"s, the modern version is 本人.

I've also started a wiki topic on ancient Chinese honorifics (simply because there is no English info on that topic anywhere on the net, or so it seems). Feel free to add or to modify what I put there, including adding more to the list, re-organizing, correcting poor english translations, or adding/editing explanations, info, details etc.... anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_honorifics

Someone already re-organized the list since I started the topic, could it be one of our forum members?

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