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Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and 外

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Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and 外

Postby ThePacster » Sun 09.23.2007 5:04 pm

Just a question that came to mind today. I play an online Japanese MMO, and I came to find that 外人 is actually more of an insult, while 外国人 is a polite or nice way to refer to foreigners, or so I've been told by one Japanese person, but I don't know if it's considered to be so by the majority.

When playing online, there have been instances where people have made rude comments such as calling me a 外人 and that I should go back to America. On the other hand, I've met some players who were very nice and we had alot of fun, but I noticed they used 外国人 rather than 外人 when referring to me and my other non-Japanese friends.

So what do you guys think? Is 外人 considered to be an insult or is it just a commonly used term, or should I be listening for being called a 外国人.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 09.23.2007 5:15 pm

There is a wide perception among Japanese (at least those I have encountered) that 外国人 is politer than 外人. This is a very, very commonly discussed issue, but IMO it's not the term that's insulting but the entire sentence or conversation.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby Feba » Sun 09.23.2007 5:22 pm

What MMO, might I ask?

I had a similar thing happen, a Japanese person I was familiar with said 外国人, I could recognize 外&人 of course, but not 国。 I asked them about it, and they replied that 外国人 meant 'foreigner'. I mentioned 外人, and they said it meant the same thing. They didn't seem to be able to see any difference in it, although that might've just been that they weren't really sure how to explain it in english.

I doubt it will matter much, as long as you make it clear whether you're being insulting or not. "I beg of you, you are a member of an inferior race, and I would very much appreciate it if you would leave." is always going to be more insulting than "Sup Nigga!", even though one is much more insulting in terms of words used, it's the content that really matters.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby doinkies » Sun 09.23.2007 6:48 pm

外人, I feel, is simply the more casual word for a foreigner, and not necessarily an insult unless it is used in an offensive way. 外国人 is more formal. That's the main difference between the two IMO.

Though there are some people out there who use 外人 as an insult such as the people that ThePacster encountered, I've also encountered people who did not use it as an insult. I have referred to myself as a 外人 too on several occasions, such as in my title on the TJP chat. ;)
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby Infidel » Sun 09.23.2007 11:42 pm

I think the concept of a "bad word" seems to be a western one. Where people blame the word, as if it had some kind of volition and were doing bad things. A word is just a word, it's the usage and intent that makes a statement bad, not a word.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby katsunori » Sun 09.23.2007 11:54 pm

昔は、「外人」の方が一般的だったと思います。それが、一部の文化人を中心に、「外人という言葉は差別用語の1つだ。」という意見が増えてきたこともあり、「外国人」という言葉を使うようになってきました。

しかし、もともと、「外人」という言葉に、悪い意味はありません。「外国人」よりも短くて、言い易いこともあり、今でも、「外人さん」と呼ぶ人も多いのではないかと思います。

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Last edited by katsunori on Sun 09.23.2007 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 09.24.2007 9:26 am

in some cases, using polite form when plain form is indicated is more insulting that using the plain form itself.

as Yudan said, it isn't so much the word itself, but the way it is used.

calling someone a bitch can be either insulting or humorous depending on how close friends you are and in what tone you use the word. that's the real difference anyways.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby dmizer » Mon 10.01.2007 10:37 pm

As has been noted, in any language context is critical to meaning. In Japanese, 「外人」 has far more ambiguity with regard to insult than many other insults. So, if I were to give you a suggestion, it would be that you should start by assuming that it is not meant in a derogatory way unless you have strong evidence otherwise.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby jt » Mon 10.01.2007 11:24 pm

This topic has already been discussed to death on the internet, so I think I'll make this my first and last post on the subject.

Anyway, like everyone is saying, it's really about context.

There was an incident a while back in which a popular Japanese news anchor commented on a foreigner in a news report who gave an interview in fluent Japanese by saying,

「しかし、外人の日本語は片言の方がいいよね」

In other words, implying that it's somehow strange for a foreigner to speak natural Japanese, or that they "should" speak broken Japanese because, well, they're foreigners. Now, would a statement like this be any less offensive if he said 「外国人」 or even 「外国の方」? No.

On the other hand, if you had, for example, a high school student talking about how they never had any foreign friends before, but an exchange student came to their school and it was really interesting hanging out with them and learning about another culture, would you crucify the kid as a bigot for saying 「外人の友達」? I wouldn't.

Now, it's true that people who overuse the word 「外人」 tend to be those who have a closed-minded, us-vs.-them mindset (that leads them to make statements like the one above) -- but the real problem is the thought process behind the statements, not the word choice.
Last edited by jt on Mon 10.01.2007 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Do Japanese find a great distinction between 外人 and

Postby Shirasagi » Tue 10.02.2007 6:56 am

jt wrote:
There was an incident a while back in which a popular Japanese news anchor commented on a foreigner in a news report who gave an interview in fluent Japanese by saying,

「しかし、外人の日本語は片言の方がいいよね」



I always thought Kume was missing some filter from his brain to his mouth that you'd think was absolutely necessary to be a newscaster. His painfully uncomfortable interview with Matsu Takako being a prime example.
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