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Old 11-17-2005, 02:30 PM   #1
barnibis
 
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Freaky! "san", vs. "sama"

Hi All,


just had a question regarding salutations. I have asked some Japanese friends of mine about this, but they were never too clear about this.

When you greet someone like let say the person's name is Daniel.

what does it meant to call them Daniel San?

vs. lets say Daniel Sama?

From some japanese shows i've seen, i am under the impression that "sama" is used to refer to someon whoi is senior, to you in age or class, and is a sign of respect. Where "San" is used as a term of endearment to someone who is junior to you?

can anyone advise on this one?


o..
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Old 11-17-2005, 02:35 PM   #2
Mark Uttech
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Sama is sort of for grandparents or parents. San is for kids and pets This is just my understanding.
In gassho
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Old 11-17-2005, 03:01 PM   #3
Ron Tisdale
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Hmmm, well, I was recently informed that today, sama is usually used by the sales people while they are trying to drag you into their shops and sell you something. It doesn't really convey the respect that it used to. I observed this myself when I spent 10 days in Japan, but didn't make the connection.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 11-17-2005, 06:40 PM   #4
asiawide
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

David Beckham, one of the most famous soccer players, is called 'Beckham-sama' If not in that case just use '-san'

Jaemin
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Old 11-17-2005, 06:45 PM   #5
mathewjgano
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

I'm pretty sure "-sama" is slightly more honorific than "-san".
Take care,
Matt

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Old 11-17-2005, 06:47 PM   #6
Brett Charvat
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

I've lived in Japan for about three and a half years, and in my experience (at least down here on Kyushu) is that "san" is something of a general use honorific; what people use with equals, business aquaintences, training partners, and people they don't know very well. "Sama," as one poster has already mentioned, is often used by sales people, wait staff, and shop keepers when referring to customers due to it's much higher honor status (if "san" means "honorable," "sama" is closer to "honorable prince" or "most revered one"). It's also still used in its original context as an extremely polite honorific in certain cases (for example, royalty or esteemed dignitaries), but it's interesting to note that it can also be used in a very rude way due to its extreme honor (for example, one of the rudest ways to refer to another person is "kisama," which roughly translates as "most revered you," wherein the extreme honor is sarcastic in its intensity). Bear in mind that my experience is possibly only relevant in and around Kumamoto; there are as many ways to speak Japanese as there are prefectures in this country.
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Old 11-17-2005, 07:26 PM   #7
Dillon
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

What Brett said seems to be pretty accurate in the Kansai area as well. "San" is almost like Mr./Ms. "Sama" is less-commonly used, at least in my daily interactions. Usually, if someone is in a position where I would use "sama," they have another title that I use instead (ex. "Sensei").
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Old 11-17-2005, 08:43 PM   #8
PeterR
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

The first time I noticed it being used (to the point of asking what it meant) was at the funeral of a young man. With respect to what Dillon says I can not think of a situation where I would use the term personally in my day to day life.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-17-2005, 09:33 PM   #9
6th Kyu For Life
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Basically, the difficulty is that there is no good english analog to either "sama" or "san." "San" doesn't really mean Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. because you use it with both given names and family names, and in almost any situation where you need to address someone by their name. "San" is not so much an indicatior of respect, because you use it with your friends in casual conversation, as much as you would use it with your boss. "Sama" however does indicate an honored status, and would only be used if it is convential. i.e. you don't just toss it on as a suffix if you want to be especially polite to your boss. The reason it is used in stores is because are expected to treat you with the upmost respect, but you would not use the same language with the employee.

Another note, it is often confused that the suffix "san" in "Fuji-san," the Japanese name for Mt. Fuji, means the same thing as the suffix "san" for names. Actually "san" is another reading for the character "yama" which means "mountain," so in this case "Fuji-san" means "Mt. Fuji," not "this guy named Fuji." Although there are probably plenty of guys named Fuji in Japan.

Peace,
Tom Newhall
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Old 11-17-2005, 11:26 PM   #10
saltlakeaiki
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

San and sama are essentially the same thing. Sama is "more polite", but that does not mean that you can use it in any case where you feel like being more polite. Its use is limited to certain contexts. From a practical standpoint, if you're trying to speak Japanese, always use san unless you know fer darn sure that sama is appropriate. Unless you live in Japan it is unlikely that you'll have the opportunity to learn to use sama correctly by hearing it used in all its many valid contexts.

Dave

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Old 11-18-2005, 11:10 AM   #11
MaryKaye
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

We have a couple of pre-teen students who are diligently learning Japanese and spent a month there this summer. Their dad has told us pointedly that "-san" is not right from teacher to (child) student, even if the teacher is impressed with the student (which is when we naturally feel inclined to say it). What does one say instead?

Mary Kaye
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Old 11-18-2005, 11:26 AM   #12
saltlakeaiki
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Quote:
Their dad has told us pointedly that "-san" is not right from teacher to (child) student, even if the teacher is impressed with the student (which is when we naturally feel inclined to say it).
Balderdash. It is perfectly normal for an adult teacher to use -san with a child. But it's not clear to me why this issue is of concern to you...?

Dave

Last edited by saltlakeaiki : 11-18-2005 at 11:28 AM.

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Old 11-18-2005, 12:31 PM   #13
saltlakeaiki
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Quote:
even if the teacher is impressed with the student (which is when we naturally feel inclined to say it).
Note further (perhaps more relevantly), use of -san is not a kind of praise, to be given or withheld depending on one's feeling. It is a form of address dictated by social rules that operate on your relationship to the other. You could be absolutely furious with (say) a co-worker, but you wouldn't fail to call them with -san because of that. If you did call them by their name without -san (called "yobi-sute" in Japanese), it would be like a real slap in the face, and escalate the emotion level to one which is normally consider improper in Japanese society.

Of course there can be exceptions: e.g. an older male boss may normally call his subordinates with -san, but when he's angry may drop it. This is ok because of his position of authority over them.

Dave

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Old 11-18-2005, 04:01 PM   #14
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

If I remember correctly (and it's been a loooong time) for a child you would use -kun (for a boy) or -chan (for a girl) instead of -san.
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Old 11-18-2005, 05:06 PM   #15
saltlakeaiki
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

You are basically remembering correctly, but you should not have been taught that these forms are to be used "instead" of and mutually exclusive with -san. For pre-elementary-aged kids, it's probably as you say: just -kun and -chan. In elementary school, I would expect a shift to mostly -san for girls. Middle school and beyond, definitely -san for girls, and a heavier usage of -san for boys as well. It depends on the amount of affection being shown. And note that -kun can be used for girls as well, depending on the people involved. It's complicated!

This is based on my years of experience in Japan, but I didn't have kids in school at the time, so someone who has first-hand experience may want to jump in.

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Old 11-18-2005, 05:06 PM   #16
PeterR
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Yes and interestingly it is kun on the black belt I was presented to by my Shihan.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-18-2005, 07:38 PM   #17
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Huh. I was in Japan as a summer exchange student, for 10 weeks in high school, the year I turned 16. I remember the high school kids, up to age 17 or 18, being called -kun and -chan, but that could have been a regional varriation (I was in Iwate). I also have some vague memory that girls could also be called -kun, but I have no idea what the rules were for that.
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Old 11-18-2005, 11:37 PM   #18
Charles Hill
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

At Keio University, all the teachers are listed with their names followed by "kun." It represents the idea that the founder of the school is the only one to be considered "sensei." However, none of us were brave enough to call or teachers "kun" to their faces!

Charles
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Old 11-19-2005, 08:47 AM   #19
MaryKaye
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Quote:
David Iannucci wrote:
Balderdash. It is perfectly normal for an adult teacher to use -san with a child. But it's not clear to me why this issue is of concern to you...?

Dave
It would be courteous of me not to mess up their Japanese studies with my sloppy Americanisms, if I can figure out how. (And I'm an assistant instructor in that class, so the question of how to address them does come up.)

Mary Kaye
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Old 11-19-2005, 07:10 PM   #20
Mat Hill
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

I teach kids from 4-13, and have taught up to 20. None of the teachers use anything other than -kun or -chan, and although I've heard of -kun being used for girls, I've never heard it. I've also rarely heard -san for kids of any age except senior high-schoolers in private schools. -chan is sometimes used for boys (and men!)... especially as far as I can work out for big strong guys! This is only ever a nickname but it sticks.
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Old 11-19-2005, 08:42 PM   #21
nekobaka
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

at my school junior high high school, girls are san, boys are kun, teachers are sensei, jesus is sama (it's a christian school). crazy thing about my school is that it's attached to a private university so a number of graduates return and work as teachers under their former teachers. these teachers are often referred to as kun by the older teachers. but then again in companies the younger men and women are referred to as kun as well. i don't think I have ever referred to some one as sama in the 8 years living here, probably because I have only been a teacher. another use of sama is when referring to the emperor and his family. recently the emperor's daughter was married and in doing so became a commoner. the media had a hard time calling her san, because they had referred to her as sama for so long.
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Old 11-20-2005, 02:06 AM   #22
Mark Uttech
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Uh, After a bit of reflection, I need to correct my first post on this thread. Sama is the higher honorific of San, and it is Chan that is used for children and pets.
In gassho
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Old 11-21-2005, 01:56 PM   #23
barnibis
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Quote:
Mary Kuhner wrote:
Their dad has told us pointedly that "-san" is not right from teacher to (child) student, even if the teacher is impressed with the student (which is when we naturally feel inclined to say it).
Mary Kaye
This reminds me of Mr. Miagi and Daniel San.

I am inclined to believe that "San" is proper from sensei to deshi.

o..

"cobra kai! never dies!"

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Old 11-22-2005, 03:39 PM   #24
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

I worked in a Japaense high school for one year - it was kun for boys and chan for girls. Several of my Aikido teachers all called me kun, only one called me san. My Judo teacher called me sensei but that was because we worked in the same high school. One of the senior Aikido students called me sensei because he was also a school teacher and knew that I was. The high school students all called me sensei. Everyone else addressed me as san. Sama was pretty rare ... I heard it a lot, but I can't remember being addressed by it. But they do put it after your name on letters. I remember all this as I was learning Japanese at the time and found such stuff fascinating.

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Old 11-23-2005, 08:10 AM   #25
kokyu
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Re: "san", vs. "sama"

Quote:
Brett Charvatbut wrote:
it's interesting to note that it can also be used in a very rude way due to its extreme honor (for example, one of the rudest ways to refer to another person is "kisama," which roughly translates as "most revered you," wherein the extreme honor is sarcastic in its intensity).
Using 'sama' can also be a way of elevating someone's status temporarily. For example, you might need the help of someone in your office, so you say "Hasegawa sama, kore wa do shimashyo" - i.e. "Mr Hasegawa, what should we do about this?". Of course, if you keep on calling the same colleague "sama", it begins to sound sarcastic...

This is slightly off the track, but Japanese has polite language or "keigo". This has a specialized vocabulary that has the effect of either raising the listener's position, or lowering the speaker's position. When I first studied Japanese, I thought keigo was only used when one wanted to be polite to someone higher up or when one was speaking to an outsider. However, people use keigo to convey sarcasm as well... For example, someone might say "shitsurei itashimasu", meaning "I am impolite" in a very polite way. However, if the speaker thinks you are being high and mighty, they might still say "shitsurei itashimasu"... but this has the meaning of "Oh... I am SOOO SORRY".

In the same way, "sama" can have polite/respectful connotations as well as sarcastic undertones. It just depends on the context.
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