Monday, April 23, 2018

Ojisan おじさん, 伯父さん, 叔父さん, 小父さん

The word ojisan means "uncle" in Japanese (but sometimes refers to an older man). Not to be confused with ojiisan or ojīsan with a macron, which mean "grandfather" instead.

It's one of the many family words with the o__san お〇〇さん pattern, and as such the honorific suffix can be changed between san, chan and sama. (see ojichan vs. ojisan vs. ojisama)

Kanji

The word ojisan written with kanji is ojisan 伯父さん, or ojisan 叔父さん, or ojisan 小父さん. It's a word that can be written with multiple, different kanji, and the meaning of the word differs according to the kanji it's written with.

伯父さん

When written as ojisan 伯父さん, it refers to the "uncle" who's your parent's older brother, or, in other words, the oniisan of your otousan or okaasan.

叔父さん

When written as ojisan 叔父さん, it refers to the "uncle" who's your parent's younger brother, or, in other words, the otouto of your otousan or okaasan.

小父さん

When written as ojisan 小父さん, it refers to an "uncle" who's not even related to your father, or, in other words, an adult man of certain age.

おじさん

It's interesting to note that not everybody knows for sure the difference between these three spellings, just like some people aren't very sure about "it's" vs. "its". So, in order to avoid making an unnecessary mistake, people tend to play safe and write the word without kanji, as ojisan おじさん, instead.

Ojichan

The word ojichan means the same thing as ojisan, "uncle."

The difference between ojisan and ojichan おじちゃん is that ojichan is a cozier word. It can imply a more friendly, relaxed, or intimate relationship between the speaker and the ojichan.

Ojisama

The word ojisama means the same thing as ojisan, "uncle."

The difference between ojisan and ojisama おじさま is that ojisama has more reverence. In anime, this often implies that the character is from a traditional family (often rich $$$) which believes children must address their parents, uncles, grandparents, etc. with respect.

In some cases, it can imply the speaker has admiration or esteem toward their uncle.

Ojisan vs. Oji

The difference between oji and ojisan, ojichan, ojisama is that oji 伯父 (叔父) does not have an honorific. In Japanese, you normally don't use honorifics toward yourself. By extension, oji would be your uncle, while ojisan, etc. other people's uncles. An exception is when you're talking about your uncle to someone in your family, then using ojisan is alright.

Also note that in anime, with children, teenagers, talking to their friends in school, the conversation is more relaxed so the norms above don't really apply.

Ossan

The word ossan means the same thing as ojisan. It's just another way of saying the word: ossan おっさん. Similarly, occhan おっちゃん is just another way of saying ojichan.

Toward Older Men

Sometimes the word ojisan 小父さん refers not to a character's "uncle" but to a man who's older than them instead. When this happens, the man is usually at least in his mid-thirties, but note that there's no hard rule for this.

In particular, child characters can sometimes call young men in their 20's ojisan, giving them a bitter and unwarranted taste of the cruelty inherent of the passage of time. The term oniisan, "older brother," is normally used similarly instead toward young men and teenagers, while ojiisan, "grandfather," toward elder men.

In anime, the term ojisan is probably used more in this way than to refer to actual uncles, since characters rarely have parents, much less parents' siblings.

One particular anime has the word ojisan in its title:
  • ojisan to mashumaro おじさんとマシュマロ
    Ojisan & Marshmallow.

When the word is used like this, it sometimes comes after the demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano.
  • ano ojisan あのおじさん
    ano ossan あのおっさん
    That old man.
  • kono ojisan このおじさん
    kono ossan このおっさん
    This old man.
    You! (you old man!)

Ojisan Fish

Lastly, the word ojisan オジサン can also refer to a certain fish, the Manybar Goatfish (Parupeneus Multifasciatus).

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