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Posts Tagged ‘referring to others’

Zokugo 05 – Ways to Refer to People

Posted by Darkslime Z on 2011/05/29

For today’s zokugo post, we’re going to look at casual ways to refer to people in the 2nd or 3rd person. While it isn’t really “zokugo”, per se, these words are extremely important for understanding and participating in casual conversation in Japanese.

Second Person – Referring to “You”

The second person, which is the one you don’t really go over in high school English classes, refers to “you”, rather than “I” or “him”. There are many ways to do this in Japanese – however, as you probably know, people don’t use them often! Whatever the reason may be, such as intimacy or just outright being vulgar, Japanese people prefer to leave this kind of word out of the sentence altogether, substituting with the person’s name or そちら・そっち whenever possible. Even so, in close-quarters situations, these words will come in handy; just use them sparingly!

お前

Only used by guys(it’s seen as vulgar when used by ladies), this version of “you” can generally be used one of two ways. First off, we have the joking around way with casual friends. It’s usually intonated starting high and ending low when used like this:

お前、以外によくやったな!こんなこと、したことあるよな?
Heh, you did that pretty well! You’ve actually done this sort of thing before, haven’t you? (come on, tell me!)

The second reason to use this is to express frustration at someone(and not show them any kindness, really). Whether it be police chasing after a petty thief or a couple of friends getting into an argument, it definitely conveys a sense of hostility. The intonation, unlike above, is usually low to high here:

おい、お前!彼女はせっかくあんなことをしてあげたのに、その態度は何だ!?
Hey, you! What the hell is up with that attitude, after that girl went through all that to do that for you!?

I never hear this being used by girls, so just keep that in mind. I do, however, hear it being used towards girls, with both connotations listed above.

あんた

Basically the equivalent of お前, except it’s used by girls sometimes. Also, you really can’t “joke arond” with あんた, and it really is pretty rude.

私のこと「あんた」って呼ばないで!私はあなたの母親なんだから。
Don’t be “hey, you”-ing me like that; I’m your mother!

貴様(きさま)

Essentially like お前; it can be used jokingly – only among very close male friends – or, usually, to express complete hostility towards the person.

小さな赤ちゃんを殴るなんて、貴様、それでも人間か!?
What kind of person are you, hitting a small baby like that!?

Insightful readers will see these kanji, though, and wonder why it’s so disrespectful. In truth, 貴様(‘your honorable self’) used to be a term to refer to your superiors. I would assume it took on a sarcastic connotation over the years, and ended up like this.

てめえ

Don’t use this, it’s probably the worst one here. It can’t really be used jokingly.

てめえはこの話しに関係ねえんだから、引っ込んでろよ。
This is none of your f***in’ business, a*****e, so get the hell out of here.

Oddly enough, てめえ can be used to refer to yourself, too, but I don’t hear that often at all. (Similar to 己(おのれ), which I won’t go over here)

Third Person – Referring to “That Guy”

The third person, usually stricken in Japanese in favor of the person’s actual name nonetheless has important uses and come up quite frequently in casual conversation.

あいつ

“That guy”. Compare to お前 – it can be used both to display affection or to display contempt.

あいつとは小学校時代からの友達さ。いいやつなんだ。
Me and him’ve been pretty tight since grade school. He’s a good guy.

I don’t really hear this being used to refer to girls, but I do hear girls use it; most of the time in anger.

あいつなんか死ねばいいのに。
I wish he would just die already.

こいつ

“This guy”, or, when not referring to a person, just “this thing” or “this stuff”. The connotations of こいつ are difficult to understand unless you’ve heard it used many times. A lot of times in anime and stuff, the character will just utter the word こいつ angrily to show their contempt towards someone they’re facing or talking to(kind of like この).

こいつは遊ぶのが好きで、仕事をしたがらない困った人間だぜ。
This guy here goofs off so much and doesn’t do his job; what an excuse for a person.

Again, it can also be used to refer to objects, many times when complimenting it.

こいつはうまいコーヒーだ。どんな豆を使っているんだろうか。
This here is some pretty great coffee. I wonder what kind of beans they use.

野郎(やろう)

While the above two words were “ko-so-a-do” words, this one isn’t. From the kanji for “field man” we get a rather vulgar way to refer to a person. Usually it’s preceded by この or あの, depending on their proximity.

あの野郎、俺をなめやがって。そう簡単にだまされないぞ。
That idiot’s making fun of me. Well, I won’t be fooled that easily.

やつ

Like the above, another rather vulgar way to refer to a person. However, it can actually be used to refer to an object(like こいつ), to refer to something you don’t know the name of, or just a way to say “he” or “she”.

お前も変なやつだな。俺を指示どおりなぜやらないんだ。
You’re one weird guy. Why can’t you just do it like I tell you to?

この雑誌、先週買ったやつと同じよ。あんた、ダブって買ったの?
This is the same magazine you picked up last week. What did you go and do, buy two of the same thing?

(Readers will notice both あんた and a word from last week, ダブる, being used here)

俺、太りすぎだから、食餌療法というやつをやることになった。
I’ve been putting on some weight lately, so they put me on one of those medical diet program things.

Closing Notes

This was originally going to include a whole bunch of other kinds of “names” to call people, but just the pronouns were making the post a little long. Perhaps another time.

Big thanks goes out to Beyond Polite Japanese: A Dictionary of Japanese Slang and Colloquialisms, by Akihiko Yonekawa. The idea to do a post on this, as well as many of the example sentences, came from this book. For someone studying colloquial Japanese, it’s a great reference, so you should go buy it! Other example sentences came from SpaceAlc.

Hope you liked the post; see you with some more zokugo next Sunday! For those of you US readers, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

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