Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ojisan, Ojiisan, Obasan, Obaasan - Meaning

So you might have heard one of these words in anime: ojisan, ojiisan, obasan and obaasan. Yep. Four words. Both ojisan and ojiisan and obasan and obaasan are different words. They aren't the same word at all, they just sound very alike.

Ojisan vs. Ojiisan

The difference between ojisan and ojiisan is very simple:
  • ojisan means "uncle"
  • ojiisan means "grandfather."

Obasan vs. Obaasan

The difference between obasan and obaasan is the same:
  • obasan means "auntie"
  • obaasan means "grandmother"

Kanji

Another difference is in the kanji used to write each word. See:
  • ojisan 伯父さん
    Uncle. (written with the kanji for uncle and father)
  • obasan 伯母さん
    Auntie. (written with the kanji for uncle and mother)
  • ojiisan お祖父さん
    Grandfather. (written with the kanji for ancestor and father)
  • obaasan お祖母さん
    Grandmother. (written with the kanji for ancestor and mother)

Ojichan, Ojiichan, Obachan, Obaachan

Just like with oniichan お兄ちゃん and oniisan お兄さん, it's possible to use the honorific shan instead of san in the words. See:
  • ojichan 伯父ちゃん
  • obachan 伯母ちゃん
  • ojiichan お祖父ちゃん
  • obaachan お祖母ちゃん

The difference between ojichan and ojisan, obachan and obasan, ojiichan and ojiisan, obaachan and obaasan is... pretty much none.

Using the chan suffix just turns the word into something more intimate. It becomes a cute way of calling your uncles, aunties, grandfathers and grandmothers. There is no change in meaning, only in nuance.

A concrete example: it's like saying "granny" instead of "grandma."

Ojisama, Ojiisama, Obasam, Obaasama

Just like with oneesan お姉ちゃん and oneesama お姉さま, it's possible to use the honorific sama instead of san in the words. See:
  • ojisama 伯父さま
  • obasama 伯母さま
  • ojiisama お祖父さま
  • obaasama お祖母さま

The difference between ojisan and ojisama, obasan and obasama, ojiisan and ojiisama, obaasan and obaasama is... also pretty much none. (You were probably expecting this, weren't you?)

Using the sama suffix just turns the word into something more polite. It becomes a respectful way of calling your uncles, aunties, grandfathers and grandmothers. There is no change in meaning, only in nuance.

In manga and anime, characters belonging to rich families, with traditions and the sort, often prefer the sama honorific instead of the san suffix to refer to their ancestors.

Oji, Ojii, Oba, Obaa

Although it often goes unnoticed, the words can also be spoken without honorifics.
  • ojis 伯父
  • oba 伯母
  • ojii お祖父
  • obaa お祖母

The Random Old Man Ojisan

You might also have noticed that in anime there are often cases someone is called ojisan 伯父さん but they are, obviously, not anybody's "uncle."

In these cases, ojisan has another meaning, of an "old man." It's a slang and can be both a friendly way of referring to someone or a sarcastic way of teasing someone. A more serious way of saying "old man" in Japanese would be roujin 老人 which refers to an "old person."


So that's how you get anime titles like ojisan to marshmallow おじさんとマシュマロ which have nothing to do with uncles.

The Random Obasan

Likewise, obasan can be used for women.

Honorific Choice

Honorifics may also be chosen for this meaning.

The words obachan and ojichan would be an intimate way of speaking about a random grandpa or granny (often used by young children in anime), while obasama and ojisama would be more polite ways (often used by high school students in anime)

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