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inappropriate use of polite forms

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inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby yankumi » Fri 08.26.2005 7:11 pm

When I was studying linguistics, we looked at cultures that had high, low and middle forms of speech. Generally, this was a socioecomic situation, and many people might know only one form of speech. But it wasn't uncommon to know several forms, and use them for the appropriate situation--speaking to one's employer, for instance. However, it was also possible to deliberately change the implications of what one was saying by using an inappriate form--speaking high dialect to a servant, or speaking low dialect to a superior. I realize Japanese use of polite forms is more of a grammatical issue, rather than a social one, and generally everyone learns it, but is there ever a similar situation--introducing a (usually negative) implication by using the inappropriate form. This would go for both polite and informal forms.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby lomagu » Fri 08.26.2005 9:00 pm

When you're upset, you could change forms. I'm sure there are other situations, but this is the only one I can think of right now. For example, using polite form to someone close to you (friend or family member), would distance you. You would usually use plain form, but maybe you're unhappy with them, so you talk to them like they're a stranger. Using plain form to a superior would be rude, so I you'd have to be pretty angry to use it.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby yankumi » Fri 08.26.2005 11:08 pm

thank you, that's what I was curious about--whether you could change the context of the situation by using a different form.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby Daichi » Sat 08.27.2005 5:21 am

I think it's always best, if in any doubt, to stick to polite forms.

It would be much better to come across as overly polite and formal in a hundred situations than to seem even slightly rude in one.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby yankumi » Sat 08.27.2005 1:40 pm

Oh, I certainly would never attempt something like this, in a culture that was not my own. I was just curious from a socio-linguistics point of view.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby LordDisa » Sat 08.27.2005 4:25 pm

This reminds me of a scene from an anime I was watching a while back (I think Ichigo 100%), where the main character is smacked and yelled at for not properly wishing someone a happy new year when he saw her...so he did so, and out of nervousness, stuck ございます into the phrase in such a way that just didn't fit. I was just starting to learn hiragana at the time, but I knew enough about the basics of the language that after reading the subtitle remarks at the top of the screen, I couldn't help but laugh. It was about akin to walking up to someone and greeting them with 「こんにちはございます。」 Anyway, this wasn't exactly what you were getting at with your post, but I couldn't help but share.
Last edited by LordDisa on Sat 08.27.2005 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: inappropriate use of polite forms

Postby Justin » Sat 08.27.2005 5:57 pm

I generally agree with the idea that you’d be better to come across as a bit overly polite rather than rude, but unless you make just an honest mistake, you should be able to make a well educated guess on which to use.

During my time studying in Japan, if there was one thing I wish my fellow classmates would have realized was to not always use the polite form. Once you really get to know someone, sitting there clinging onto to the polite form can really come across as someone else said, distant. It would be like having one of your friends seriously asking you to “Would you kindly accompany to dine at the local convenience store?” every single time they wanted to see if you’d to go grab a bento at 7-11 or something.

Granted there are times it’s good to use the polite form when you are asking for a favor and what not, but it’s generally not a good idea to try and annoy your friends by putting distant between you. Basically, if is someone other than a boss/teacher type figure is talking to you in a non polite form, they are doing so to show closeness, so by all means do the same back for them.

Now, beyond that, you would defiantly not want to use the impolite form with any type of boss/teacher type figure as you’ll come across as sounding like a punk. Not everyone can speak perfect keigo, so as long as you stick to desu/masu form of things, I’m sure no one will really have much of a problem even if you slip up a few times.

In general, people above you, always try to speak as nicely as you can, people that are on the same level or lower, you can then start to back off on the politeness. You can defiantly vary how you speak to make a joke, or maybe to piss someone off on purpose, but normally, you’d like to follow that chain of command style stuff for knowing how to speak.
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