“The Karate Kid” helped make it cool in America to use the Japanese honorific “san,” but Mr. Miyagi was only telling part of the story. The Japanese will often use honorifics at the end of someone’s name to designate their relation to themselves; “san” is just one such term. “San” is used for someone you don’t know well, peers and always for people above your station. Call a young, beloved girl, “chan,” and call a young, beloved boy, “kun.”
- Calling your 50 year-old male boss, “Miyagi-kun”
- Referring to yourself as “Me-san/kun/chan.” Honorifics are only to be used in the 2nd or 3rd person. Young children will often make this mistake.
- Calling a little girl, “kun.”
- Calling a little boy, “chan.” It’s a little irregular but still considered okay. Famous example: Crayon Shin-chan.
- Calling a female co-worker who is older than you, for example, “Ribu-chan.” Apparently, it’s okay if said Ribu-chan is, I quote, “very cute.” At least they’re not calling her “Ribu-kun” … or late for dinner.
I’m here all week, folks.