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わし

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わし

Postby kurisuto » Sat 07.03.2010 7:46 pm

Maybe this question would be better suited to the culture sub-forum, but it's kind of tricky.

I've always found Japanese pronouns fascinating: first because, while there are tons of them, they aren't needed grammatically speaking in most situations, and anyway, they're seldom used. But another thing that interests me is the way they're used and by whom. I know that some pronouns are increasingly used by people who """shouldn't""" use them, but let's say stereotypes hold true.

So, on one hand, you have people who by "birthright" use certain pronouns (male/female distinction for instance); on the other hand, you have people who by "acquired right" or depending on the situation use other pronouns (meue/meshita for instance). My question is on the "acquired right pronouns".

わし is intriguing in that the "acquired right" is age, i.e. there's a very interesting moment where one stops using whatever pronoun he was using, and replace it with わし (I'm not talking about some dialects where わし could be used by other peope than elderly males; again, let's say stereotypes old true). And, contrary to high or low social status for instance, old age will normally be reached by everyone of us, so instead of what could be a sudden, impredictible change, it is indeed a natural and gradual process, which complicates things.

So my questions are, when do people start using わし? Are there special events in one's life which can influence this choice? Have you yourself switched to it, and when/why, or have you witnessed this switch in one of your acquaintances speaking habits? At what age would you consider someone using it "ridiculous" or somewhat weird? Would you say it's purely a question of age, or is (perceived) maturity more important? Since I'm more interested in the actual use (as opposed to what books say about this subject), I'm especially intereted in natives and relatively long-time residents' opinions.

よろしくお願いします。
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Re: わし

Postby NileCat » Sun 07.04.2010 1:46 pm

That seems a very interesting question to me.
The answer would be different depending on the answerer's generation, social class, region, profession, or you name it.
I have to make my post short today because I don't have much time now. But I think there are two things I want to point out.

Firstly, it seems that those pronouns appear in literature or entertainment pieces are a little bit differently used from the ones in our real life.
For instance, in many "stories", the elderly characters frequently use "わし". The usage can deliver a sense that the person is "elderly". In our real life, however, most of the real elderly people don't want to be seen like "elderly". Which means that the people who use the "わし" are people who want to be seen "elderly", or, people who are really really old. I don't think I have met many people under, say, eighty who actually use "わし" all the time in our 21st century. Unlike many artificial characters in fiction.

Secondly, the use of the word depends on the people whom they speak to. Imagine a 60-year-old guy who runs a bakery or something. When he talks to his customers, he would use ”私". When he talks to his mistress, he would use "おれ" or ”ぼく". And if he talks to his grandchildren, he might use "わし".

The most likely situation is;
The guy may be over the hill.. What do you call it? Anecdotage?
And he talks to a younger person.
And he wants to make the most of his age. Like being preachy, for instance.

JFYI, I had a good friend of mine when I was in a junior high school, age 12-15. This guy used to use "わし" when he talked to his friends. His agnomen (nickname) was something like "Old Codger".
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Re: わし

Postby kurisuto » Sun 07.04.2010 3:56 pm

NileCat wrote:I have to make my post short today because I don't have much time now.


Well, it seems like you had just about the time to provide interesting insights into this! Thanks for your answer. :)

NileCat wrote:Which means that the people who use the "わし" are people who want to be seen "elderly", or, people who are really really old. I don't think I have met many people under, say, eighty who actually use "わし" all the time in our 21st century.


So, would it be reasonable to say that what we mean by "(used by) elderly people" is not purely a question of age, but rather of birthdate? I mean, those who were born before WWII are indeed old by now, but we don't have a formal proof that, rather than elderly people, it's those who were born before WWII that use わし, hence relatively old (let's say 50-70) people using it are rare? Maybe sooner or later nobody will use it anymore?

NileCat wrote:Secondly, the use of the word depends on the people whom they speak to. [...] he wants to make the most of his age. Like being preachy, for instance.


I see... So even in real life it acts like a mental shortcut, "washi = more experienced".

NileCat wrote:JFYI, I had a good friend of mine when I was in a junior high school, age 12-15. This guy used to use "わし" when he talked to his friends. His agnomen (nickname) was something like "Old Codger".


So that would partly answer my penultimate question! ;) Strangely, I'd like to see a youth using it; it must be quite peculiar.

Judging from what you told me, it seems like there are many factors to bear in mind when reflecting about the use of わし. Fascinating!
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Re: わし

Postby NileCat » Sun 07.04.2010 9:48 pm

It seems to me that your understanding is right.
:)
But please note that my opinion is a kind of "extreme logic". I just wanted to mention the facts that no dictionary would say.
Generally, common sense is;
:arrow: Relatively old people tend to use "わし" even today. The choice is made depending on individual taste. It's only a matter of personal preference.
:wink:
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Re: わし

Postby furrykef » Sun 07.04.2010 10:51 pm

One wonders if in a hundred or two hundred years people will be saying, "I don't wanna call myself 'boku', that's what my grandfather called himself..."
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Re: わし

Postby kurisuto » Mon 07.05.2010 10:40 am

NileCat wrote:It seems to me that your understanding is right.
:)
But please note that my opinion is a kind of "extreme logic". I just wanted to mention the facts that no dictionary would say.
Generally, common sense is;
:arrow: Relatively old people tend to use "わし" even today. The choice is made depending on individual taste. It's only a matter of personal preference.
:wink:


Thanks again. It's kind of frustrating to not be able to witness this first-hand. As I said, what books say about this kind of subjects doesn't interest me much, so your insider's point of view is very interesting to me.

furrykef wrote:One wonders if in a hundred or two hundred years people will be saying, "I don't wanna call myself 'boku', that's what my grandfather called himself..."


Hey, maybe we'll still be alive when it happens!

Seriously, even though I doubt that will be the case, linguistic changes are quite impredictible and can take place over a very short period of time, so we'll see. Let's meet here twenty years from now, and have a little chat about that! ;)
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Re: わし

Postby NileCat » Mon 07.05.2010 11:39 am

kurisuto wrote:Thanks again. It's kind of frustrating to not be able to witness this first-hand. As I said, what books say about this kind of subjects doesn't interest me much, so your insider's point of view is very interesting to me.

When I read your original post, the first thing I came up with was the following old anime for children.
It's called "ゲゲゲの鬼太郎".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbnaKvn3 ... =1&index=4
There are many 妖怪 (specters/monsters/fairies) in this story. They are practicing their autographs like...a make-believe of celebrities .
At 01'17", a sepcter called "油すまし" speaks. He is a stereotypical old man. He, of course, uses "わし".
But after his lines, at 01' 45", a funny character called "目玉おやじ" appears. He is an eyeball. And he is supposed to be a father of 鬼太郎, the main character. He uses わし as well.

...See? Now you might be able to understand some stupid kids might want to imitate the odd but cute feeling of the character using the word わし.
:)
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Re: わし

Postby kurisuto » Mon 07.05.2010 12:21 pm

He he, I see! Thanks for the link!

I can understand why some kids think it sounds cool; if there was such a pronoun in English, I think we'd witness the same phenomenon -- well, something close would probably be the royal "we", but I don't think it's used by children, simply because they would first have to know about it (I primarily base my judgment on French, which also has this royal "we"; here we almost never hear it, so I assume it's the same in English-speaking countries).
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Re: わし

Postby AJBryant » Mon 07.05.2010 2:49 pm

NileCat wrote:It's called "ゲゲゲの鬼太郎".



You have just gained 100 "cool" points. :)

I love Ge Ge Ge no Kitarô. (Okay, I really love yôkai stories, but... heck.) :)

BTW, my personal favorite first-person pronoun is それがし. But I'm a historian....
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Re: わし

Postby kurisuto » Mon 07.05.2010 4:27 pm

AJBryant wrote:my personal favorite first-person pronoun is それがし.


Now that's surprising! ;)

Pardon my curiosity, but what pronoun do (or did back in Japan) you usually use?
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Re: わし

Postby NileCat » Tue 07.06.2010 3:54 am

AJBryant wrote:You have just gained 100 "cool" points. :)

Thanks Tony. Very glad to see you again!

I had always thought your favorite was 拙者.
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Re: わし

Postby AJBryant » Tue 07.06.2010 11:47 am

NileCat wrote:I had always thought your favorite was 拙者.


At my bar and with some certain friends, it was. I'm just starting to groove on 某 now.


kurisuto wrote:Pardon my curiosity, but what pronoun do (or did back in Japan) you usually use?


As I think on it, under normal day-to-day functions, it was usually either わし or わたし. I don't think there was any conscious reason for either.
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Re: わし

Postby NileCat » Tue 07.06.2010 12:00 pm

AJBryant wrote:As I think on it, under normal day-to-day functions, it was usually either わし or わたし. I don't think there was any conscious reason for either.

Cool!
Now we have a living example.
Imagine the scene where Tony is speaking in his fluent Japanese using わし, Kurisuto.
The listeners would recognize his humor and his own "voice" in it. You see?
:D
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Re: わし

Postby kurisuto » Tue 07.06.2010 5:43 pm

AJBryant wrote:As I think on it, under normal day-to-day functions, it was usually either わし or わたし. I don't think there was any conscious reason for either.


Very interesting. I don't know why, but I had some troubles picturing you using わたし. Well, maybe it has to do with the fact that I picture you as a samurai (and that's not a joke; because of your avatars among other things, I can't help but believing a bit in the "Tony = samurai" equation).

NileCat wrote:Imagine the scene where Tony is speaking in his fluent Japanese using わし, Kurisuto.
The listeners would recognize his humor and his own "voice" in it. You see?
:D


I sure have less problems with わし than わたし!

AJBryant wrote:You have just gained 100 "cool" points. :)

NileCat wrote:Cool!


Yeah, sure, don't give me any. I'm fine! Feel free to continue distributing cool points to one another! :twisted: :wink:
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Re: わし

Postby AJBryant » Tue 07.06.2010 6:33 pm

kurisuto wrote:Yeah, sure, don't give me any. I'm fine! Feel free to continue distributing cool points to one another! :twisted: :wink:


Well, you didn't mention Ge Ge Ge no Kitarô.

By Toutatis, there is hope, though: What's your take on Asterix? ;)
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