The Difference between Men and Women’s Speech
in the Translation
Today I would like to talk about the difference between male and Female speech in Japanese, which mostly can be found in the use of polite prefixes.
Over the years, the difference has become less and less, but still characteristics of women's speech are noticeable in the conversation. InJapan the degree of politeness in language has been deteriorating. But it is very strange that in the business scene, generally very polite statements are welcome. For example, you are welcome at a hamburger shop, saying, “O-nomimono wa nanini nasaimasuka? Fraido poteto wa ikaga desuka?(What would you drink? How about fried potatoes? )” In this case, men are also very polite as well as women. There are manuals which a sales clerk must follow. I was dumfounded when I first heard “O-namae-sama wa?（May I have your name, Please?)” We are familiar to hearing that “o-futari sama” means “you are a party of two.” ButI am accustomed to this excessive keigo. “o-namae- sama,”as I heard it many times at the department store.
Generally, women use more polite prefix “o-“ or “go-“ to nouns.For example, women say, o-kane (money), o-sake(sake wine), o-kome(rice), and if I say “Yuube sake o nonda (I drank sake last night),” it sounds rude.
Recently I asked 10 women if they attach this polite prefix. All of them said “yes.” Polite prefixes “o-” and “go-” used in front of nouns express speaker's respect to the listeners. Even when the teacher herself is not present at the spot one uses these prefixes.
ex. 先生のご本 teacher's book (teacher wrote the book or teacher owns the book)
ex. 先生のご研究 teacher's research
These “go-“ attaches to the Chinese origin nouns.
ex. 先生のお手紙 teacher's letter
ex. 先生のお弁当 teacher's lunch box
ex. 先生のお車 teacher's car
You must be careful, “onigiri” is a rice ball, but “nigiri” is sushi. The indicated object is quite different. Also, the use of “o-” and “go-” expresses the speaker’s politeness, besides expressing respect.
ex. このお菓子はほんとうにおいしいですね。 This cake is very good.
ex. みなさんにお知らせがあります。 Attention, please.
These prefixes are not honorific;they simply show speaker’spoliteness.
Formerly, some people were too polite to attach two or three polite prefix to nouns.
ex. misoshiru (bean paste soup) o-misoshiru (1 polite prefix)-
o-mi-o-tuke (3 polite prefixes)
ex. ashi(foot) sensei no o-mi-ashi (2 honorific prefixes)
In this talk I will show you how the original statements of women in English are translated into Japanese women's talk by attaching "o"and "go"to the nouns.
It is interesting that men sometimes attach these “o-” and “go-” to the nouns when they speak to women and children. Men sometimes say “o-sake” to their wives. This is a kind of phenomenon like baby talk. Men use these polite prefixes depending on whom they are talking to.
All the examples below were taken from the book The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein, translated by Masami Fukushima (1979).
1) Belle Darkin said,“But when we marry I want to forget business and justdevote myself to making you happy.”
2) Belle Darkin said, “By noon he'd be sober enough to convince most people. But not a doctor.”
3) Belle Darkin said, “Danny boy, you're being very tiresome. -----Don't be dull, dear. Let’s have a drink. Let's drink a toast to our happy reunion.”
Danny said, “I don't use the stuff.”
4)Belle Darkin said, “I'm terribly busy but I'll break my engagement and—”
5)Jenny said, “Danny? Can it wash dishes? Everydishyou have is dirty.”
6)Ricky said, “I just this minute got a letter from you.--I haven't even had a chance to open it.”
7)Danny said, “Yes, I'll explain, Ricky, but it's rather long.”
8)Ricky said, “I'm not going back there, Danny.”
9)Ricky said, “That's worth a lot of money, isn't it?”
10)Danny said, “Quite a bit. It will be worth more.”
11)Ricky said, “I don't want your money.”
12)Danny said, “Be a good girl, go live with your grandmama, go to school- and just let this money pile up.”
13)Danny wrote, “I waved money at him,-- ”
I here write the synopsis to clarify the relationship of the characters.
The Door into Summer (Synopsis):
Dan Davis, an electronics engineer, had finally made the invention of a lifetime:a household robot that could do almost anything. Wild success was within reach-and Dan's life was ruined. In a plot to steal his business, his greedy partner (Miles Gentry) and greedier fiancée(Belle Darkin) trickedhim into taking the long sleep---suspended animation for thirty years. But when he awoke in the far different world of A.D. 2000, he made an amazing discovery. And suddenly Dan had the means to travel back intime, and get his revenge! Ricky was eleven year old girl and she married Dan after all. This is SIFI, but also is a romantic story.
（Kikuko Tatematsu, Former Assistant Director, Inter-University Center
Copyright © 2001 The Society for Gender Studies in Japanese
All Rights Reserved.
All Rights Reserved.