Tomonaga (Tomonaga@xtra.co.nz)
Sat, 09 Oct 1999 16:37:22 +1300


Scott DiBerardino wrote:

> >From: Tomonaga <Tomonaga@xtra.co.nz>
>
> >The -kun suffix on the other hand is a definite male only term and can be used
> >formally.
>
> I've heard -kun used when addressing women in a work context, usually (IIRC)
> with the family name. It's almost always a boss-employee sort of
> relationship. I don't think this would extend outside of 'official' or
> 'serious' usage.
>

It's not normal practice to address women of any age with the -kun ending. If you
have heard it used, it is very rare and I should think, with young women only. The
only reason I can think of women being addressed with -kun is if it is a
nickname/pet name or some kind. In Japan, it is not uncommon for bosses in
close-knit departments/companies to give their employees nicknames(sometimes
strange). But as I said before -kun is used for young males and in reference to
those of equal or lower status (involves age,rank, and familiarity). It may be
hard for those in the West to comprehend, but seniority in age is an important part
of many Asian cultures. Often age outranks abilities and experience. And this
'ageism' is important in the use of -kun. (NB: You may have seen the 'sen-pai' -
'ko-hai' relationship in anime which refers to senior-junior bond which is first
developed in high school/ university and exists/pervades throughout the life of a
typical Japanese person).

> This usage is usually concomitant with addressing male employees of similar
> employee-status using
> -kun.
>
> -scott \\ sdiberar@student.umass.edu
>

In general, employees from thirties and up would not refer to those of equal status
with the -kun ending. But it is not uncommon for the 'Big Boss' of the
organization (usually very senior in rank and age - 60s to 70s) to refer to male
subordinates in their thirties to fifties with the -kun ending. I also would like
to add that the use of -kun depends on the personality of the person using it.
For example, there are teachers who insist on calling students by their surnames
only, while there are those who use Mr/Miss, and then there are those who use first
names. In much the same way there are people who use -kun in the appropriate
situation while other stick to -san. Because of all the subtle conditions for it's
use, it does get confusing for those who are interested in the Japanese language.
However, there really is no reason to be concerned as -kun is not a mandatory
suffix and -san is acceptable in all situations and is the most correct and polite
form.

Also in general among close young friends and colleagues of equivalent age/status/
familiarity suffix are not used except with nicknames. Again personality of the
person come into effect eg. a timid/polite personality is more likely to use either
-kun, -chan,-san all the time as appropriate and the tough/cool guy types would not
use any suffix. Kids copy this from a young age and you often get young pre-school
kids calling each other by surname only!

In military situations as with corporate situations, a high ranking officer
(Colonel equivalent and up) could refer to their young Lieutenants and Captains
with the -kun suffix. -chan would not be used in the military at all except in
personal conversations and in the right context. Like in most military branches
addressing by rank and/or surname only is the norm.

I hope I made it a little more clear.

Tet

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