日本語の秘密 27/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 5 Japanese People Can’t Use Polite Language Correctly Either

→ You Don’t Have to Add the Honorific Prefixes o- or go-

  The Japanese have a bad habit of wanting to add the prefixes o- and go- in front of all kinds of words. Most of the time they do this in a conversation, it’s because it’s safer to indicate respect for the other person and they wish to show that they are refined and sophisticated. It’s easy to do this when you add o- or go-.

     o-: o-tya, o-hana, o-hanasi, o-tukue, o-sezi, etc.
       o-kouhi, o-sousu, o-biiru, o-tabako, etc.

  (It’s mainly women who add o
   to loanwords from European languages.)

  go-: go-han, go-zyuusyo, go-annai, go-hon, go-Katei, etc.

  In principle, the prefix o is used for Japanese words and loanwords from European languages, and the prefix go is used for Kango (loanwords of Chinese origin). There are also exceptions like the word tya (tea). Tya is Kango, but it uses the prefix o-.

  There are other words like gohan, of which since the prefix go- has been used so often in conjunction with han that the original word han seems too short and is no longer used, and the word gohan has taken its place. It is also more common to use the word otya than the word tya.

  In the word gohan, go- has become a part of the word. You can memorize it as a word which has go- attached to it, but if it weren’t one of these words, you still wouldn’t need to add an o- or go- to it. It seems that Japanese people are also beginning to become aware of the ridiculousness of using these honorifics so much. Often when you use these honorifics, what you’re saying sounds overly polite and unnatural. Nowadays hardly anyone adds honorifics to words like kouhii ‘coffee’ and says things like “okouhii”.

  You can say the same thing about using honorific prefixes with verbs. Surely we don’t need to add o- or go- to already polite language. Let’s use the verb kaku as an example. You don’t need to use the forms which were not marked with circles above: okaki kudasaru, okaki itadaku, okaki ni naru, okaki suru. You can show sufficient respect by using kakimasu, kakareru, kaite kudasaru, and kaite itadaku.

  If you use these expressions in this way, you can make the Japanese politeness formulas an even easier to use and more convenient. Besides, if you are a foreigner, no one will think it’s strange if you don’t use honorific prefixes like o- and go-. Don’t worry anymore about where and when to add the honorifics o- and go-.

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