And kanji with manga
Saturday, April 21, 2018

musuko 息子

In Japanese, musuko 息子 means one's "son" most of the time, except when it's used as an innuendo for one's "penis" instead.

Kanji

The word musuko written with kanji is 息子. This is a jukujikun 熟字訓, as it doesn't follow the standard readings of the kanji.

To elaborate: 子 can be read as ko こ, but 息 can't be read as musu むす. You only have this musu reading in the word musuko specifically.

But then where does the musu morpheme come from?

It seems it's from the word musu 生す, which means to give birth to, to spawn, to grow something from nothing, etc.[息子 - gogen-yurai.com, accessed 2020-02-28]

Musukosan

The word musuko-san 息子さん is used to refer to other people's sons, not your own.

Many words for family members in Japanese feature the ~san ~さん honorific, like otousan お父さん, "father," but this happens because these words have an implied seniority and as such must be referred to respectfully.

The father is older than the son, and you must respect your elders, so father gets ~san, but the son, which is younger, does not. Only when you're talking about other people's sons the ~san is used.

Similarly, the "younger brother" otouto has oniisan お兄さん as "older brother" counterpart.

Magomusuko

The word mago-musuko 孫息子 means "grandson." Normally, mago 孫 means a gender neutral "grandchild."

Slang Usage

Colloquially, the term musuko may sometimes be used as a slang to refer to one's own penis instead of their son. I'll leave the reason for this to the reader's imagination.

In particular, the phrase—

  • itsumo musuko ga osewa ni natte-orimasu
    いつも息子がお世話になっております
    Often [my] son is in [your] care. (literally)
    Thank you for taking care of my son.

—is normally an innocent expression of gratitude, but, specially in the internet, it can mean something perverted instead.

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