Ghost-of-a-Chance

LANGUAGE & CULTURE QUESTION regarding a situationally appropriate Japanese suffix

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Specifically, I’m trying to find a suffix which would be considered intentionally rude and insulting for a situation involving bullying. Beware, long post to include all relevant details. 

The story in question (Shifting the Paradigm - WIP, don’t recall if I’ve posted it here yet) portrays a fair amount of culture clash between Western/Japanese cultures and Earthling/Alien cultures, and racism (both ways) is touched upon and implied. These conflicts are a vital part of the story’s character-building and required for certain characters’ growth, and they foster a feeling of mutual-unbelonging within the human/alien pairings. (Dragon Ball Z fanfiction, knowledge of it shouldn’t be required to answer this question.) I’m going to try to keep this as concise as possible but I’m a bit scatterbrained on a good day.

 

Background: characters “Rio,” Sierra, and Cordelia Stone have a Latinx American mother (call her E) and Japanese-born father (call him T) in southern/midwestern America. (specifically Missouri. It doesn’t really fit with either region culture-wise.) The family bounced back and forth between E’s hometown in Missouri and T’s hometown in Japan while he finished his schooling and built his career. In her mid-teens, Rio became an underage mother. (messy complicated situation, skipping the details here) T urged for abortion and shamed Rio, while E insisted keeping or aborting was Rio’s choice and the family needed to support her, not condemn her. Rio chose to keep and raise her daughter and named her Rowan. Rio dropping out to provide for her kid (and, specifically, her parents’ inability to agree about how to handle it) was the last straw in E & T’s strained relationship. After the divorce, Rio, her sisters, and Rowan remained in Japan with T because his income was more stable and capable of caring for four kids, and they spent school breaks in America with E. Rowan and her aunts all have dual citizenship though they’ve (permanently) settled in Japan.

The character in question, Rowan Stone, attends a traditional Japanese high school with a few canon characters and is finishing up her last year. She doesn’t fit in with her peers in appearance or behavior, and she’s gotten into some trouble, one of which incidents resulted in expulsion from her previous school in her second-to-last year. As a result, Rowan has undergone various amounts of bullying, exclusion, and harassment. Rio hasn’t encouraged Rowan to fit in – if anything, Rio’s got a “we’re different, they can suck it” attitude which is just as toxic/exclusionist as “you’re different so we don’t want you” – and Rowan hasn’t yet felt much inclination to make friends or socialize. Her only goal at the moment is to finish school, get the heck out, and take up full-time work. She’s still very much finding herself as the story progresses.

 

Finally, the scene in question takes place from the POV of a neutral Canon peer just now noticing Rowan. I’m including the scene [with a few non-vital bits redacted in a belated attempt at brevity] below. No spelling/grammar checking or proof-reading has been done yet – this is a rough draft. There will be too many commas and grammar mistakes.

Canon characters, Bullying OCs, sentence in question.)

Quote

Gohan knew little about the student addressed as "Stone Rowan" but what he did know made him nervous. She fit with the rest of the class as well as a rusty hatchet fit with a chef-grade cutlery set. She rarely chatted with other students during breaks, instead burying her nose in a book and eating her lunch alone at her desk. She was quiet, she kept to herself, she belonged to no optional clubs and always left the moment the students were dismissed for the day. Strangest of all, at least to the class gossip-mongers, she always kept her right arm covered to the elbow, whether with long sleeves or a cloth armband. Despite the rest of the class’s fascination with Stone’s...otherness...she seemed to have less regard for them than a Namekian might have for Earth music. ...Dende aside.

At the beginning of the term, Gohan was content to ignore the Stone girl as she seemed to wish. Then he came across another person named Stone and who spoke with the same brassy drawl, and now, his curiosity wouldn't leave him alone. The two females looked nothing alike—on the surface, they were practically opposites!—but he wasn’t fooled by appearances. Chi didn’t lie. Then again, the odds of two unrelated women with the same last name being on Dende’s radar at the same time were low enough for suspicion.

A forced cough broke Gohan from his pondering; Erasa shot a pointed look at Videl, who seemed on the verge of snapping at him. "Did I miss something?" he asked folding up his sandwich wrapper with a sheepish wince. Videl rolled her eyes and motioned for Erasa to continue. Slowly the conversation picked back up around Gohan but eventually his eyes meandered back to the redhead by the door. This time she wasn't alone—three other students hemmed her in against the desktop. Purintā, Stapura, and Saschelle weren't the friendliest or most studious sorts and, from what he could see, they were on the prowl for their next stepping stone. Gohan cringed the moment he caught the pun in his musings; that was awful.

"What's the point, anyway?" Sharpner's unexpected demand broke Gohan’s train of thought.

"The…point of what?" Gohan asked with a wince. Sharpner sniffed and gestured to the redhead by the door.

"Stone," the blond grunted leaning his chair back on two feet and propping his on the desktop. "Everyone knows she has a tattoo, so why does she bother hiding it?"

"She has a what?" Gohan burst out and turned to study Rowan's cloth-wrapped right arm in open disbelief. Now that he thought about it, he could see faint traces of darker color showing through the thin white cloth of her uniform shirt. From the blank stares of his friends, he slipped into English again without noticing. That explained the angry flush on the redhead’s cheeks. "Okay," he muttered turning back to his friends, "so she has a tattoo and she keeps it covered. What's it matter?" Someday it would be nice for the are you an idiot? stares from his classmates to not make him feel like an idiot.

"She got it at sixteen," Erasa hissed. "There was a huge fiasco at her old school when she showed up after summer break—Saschelle said her cousin at West City High told her Stone went on vacation in another country just to get tattooed!" She waited a moment for the unspoken to register. No such luck. "It's illegal to tattoo a minor, Son," she reminded. "Stone broke the law for that tattoo and if the rumors are right, it's just a bird! How on earth could that have been so important to her that she'd break the law for it?"

Gohan thought about it a moment while idly munching on his third fishcake of the day. In the background he heard Erasa continue ranting—something about body art being shunned by polite society, and how anyone with a tattoo was banned from many establishments on sight. Somewhere in the blonde's rambling Gohan heard the words wabori, youbori, and Yakuza, but it wasn't enough to draw his focus away.

Over by the door, Saschelle kicked her attitude up a notch. "Are you rude or hearing impaired?" she taunted Stone, then added in a singsong tone, "Gai…jin…:dots:?" With that one word, the entire classroom went completely silent; every head turned to the standoff by the door, every voice silent with bated breath. Even Gohan knew this was a horrible breach of ettiquette, and he grew up in the backwoods!

Rowan slowly lifted her eyes from the pages of her book to the sneering brunette leaning against her desk and up in her face. Her nostrils flared as she sucked in a steadying, calming breath then slowly expelled it. Gohan tensed, his mind racing for a way to break up the imminent fight without hurting someone or exposing his true power. "Your bad score in English Conversation is not my fault," Rowan reminded in blunt, unimpressed Japanese. "If you focus on study as much as you make fun of me, you will improve your grammar." Sharpner whistled under his breath. Erasa tittered at the zinger. Saschelle’s face turned red, then scarlet, then—yes, Gohan realized with a wince, crimson with rage.

"Her grammar is fine!" Purintā snapped at the redhead. "Your English does not make sense!" Rowan rolled her eyes with a dismissive snort and began packing away the remnants of her lunch.

"Your grammar is terrible, and I can prove it." She shoved her lunch bag into her desk. “Grammatically correct,” she said, then switched to English, “Get out of my face.' Not grammatically correct: 'Dicks you are being,'" she warned in a ridiculous nasal tone that reminded Gohan of some movie he couldn’t recall the name of. "'Stop you should, before slapped you get.' Now leave me alone."

SO. What suffix would be the most insulting and offensive in this situation?

According to what I’ve read, the word Gaijin can be seen as A, an innocuous social descriptor, B, a compliment to a foreign associate, or C, a racial slur depending on the situation, tone, and context, and the personal beliefs and biases of those involved. I believe the article said it means roughly not one of us or not Japanese. I don’t know the accuracy of these statements and have done as much research as I can to determine what I can. 

In this case, Saschelle is trying to provoke Rowan to retaliate (and thus get in trouble) by using the word as a slur, and she’s adding an honorific to cast doubt among the rest of the class that maybe she isn’t using it as a slur. (Obviously it didn’t work; the others’ reactions show they recognize Saschelle’s bullying for what is) Rowan and Saschelle are the same gender, grade, roughly the same age, etc; I think using -kun would thus be more insulting because it would insinuate Rowan is of a lower class/inferior to Saschelle on account of her non-Asian ancestry. What I’ve read indicates -kun is used by upper-classmen referring to lower-classmen and, in the workforce, superiors referring to their inferiors...but I’ve also read that -kun is normally just used for male persons outside of the workplace. The other option I’ve considered is -chan which can seen as childish or affectionate. Saschelle isn’t denoting affection, she’s a stereotypical mean girl spewing nastiness from behind a superiority complex, but that might emphasize her pretense of I’m actually sweet and nice, you’re the one with a problem.

 

  So. I’m honestly trying to keep this socially and culturally accurate instead of just spewing out what feels right. Do I go with -kun, or -chan, or is there something entirely different which fits better? Anyone got an answer? This question (and the proofing) is the only thing keeping this chapter from being complete and posted.

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Gaijin is considered quite rude in most social situations regarding non-Japanese (especially white) people today, and especially if it’s said in a rude or taunting tone. 

The polite way of saying “foreigner” is Gaikokujin. 

Also for the honorifics, -kun and -chan are used when you are familiar with someone, so anyone trying to keep a “social distance” of any kind, would just use familyname-san, I think. Of course the tone of voice can always be used to convey condescension etc.

-kun and -chan are also used for boys younger than you and girls, respectively, so adding the suffix -kun to the name of someone your own age, either means you are quite close, or implies that you view that person as someone below you in age and “status”, but I don’t think Japanese teens would actually use it that way. 

After conferring with our head archive mod, the story content is allowed in this instance as per the post below mine. The extra content is needed for context.  

Willow Darkling, forum moderator.

Edited by WillowDarkling
Ate my words about story content

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Actually, in this instance, because the OP is looking for language guidance and not looking to publish a story on the forum, in whole or in part, I think the extra content was needed to get the correct guidance, especially in the murky world of Japanese honorifics (which still elude me after all these years of you trying to teach me).

Now, the idiot who keeps trying to publish stories in the Adopt a Story forum definitely needs to be smacked with a very large thesaurus. Repeatedly. :lol:

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13 hours ago, BronxWench said:

Actually, in this instance, because the OP is looking for language guidance and not looking to publish a story on the forum, in whole or in part, I think the extra content was needed to get the correct guidance

…? I take it I missed something? Was this flagged, or reported, or did I unintentionally bugger something up? I’ve been down with a migraine all day (it’s still trying to bounce back up from headache to pickaxe pulverizing my frontal lobe) so this is the first I’ve heard or seen about anything. I’m confused...

I’m still new to this forum so apologies if I misstep. The one I used to work with is...let’s just say less than reasonable, entirely unhelpful, and crawling with irrational kidults looking for a punching bag. (...stay away from FFnet’s “Writers Anonymous.” Just stay away.) When posting a question I always try to include the relevant information and keep it brief – or at least summarized and formatted for easy reading – but different opinions on relevance are a hurdle. Every attempt on W.A. got answers of TLDR, try Google and not enough info I must know everything about your story and characters including each protagonist’s blood type and pet’s maiden name or I absolutely cannot help you with anything on the exact same post. Once in a while I was lucky enough to merit a dunno, ask Jeeves. When hours and even days of searching and reading didn’t get me the answers I needed, the only way I ever managed to keep the too much and not enough repliers happy was by including snippets for context...or offering cookies and begging for intruding upon their space. :eyebrow:

 

18 hours ago, WillowDarkling said:

Gaijin is considered quite rude in most social situations regarding non-Japanese (especially white) people today, and especially if it’s said in a rude or taunting tone. 

The character Saschelle is being abusive and antagonistic to character Rowan so the slur is very much intended as a slur there; at least in my previous experiences, bullies don’t generally pull their punches. Glad I was able to get the attitude across there. I recalled reading that the polite term was gaikokujin, hence the exaggerated pause between syllables – a sudden and emphasized jump from feigning manners to blatant insult to throw the recipient off-kilter.

I’ve gone through the lists of sites and article links in my fan-writing Notebook (thank goodness for OneNote!) but for the life of me, I can’t find the article I got my G-word info from. >< If this instance follows other recent ones, it means I bookmarked the article on my old computer and forgot to add a link in my Notebook. My dear old Betsy effectively went battery-up recently and has been replaced. I can’t access my bookmarks until I get Firefox working and updated on the replacement computer…or until I can manage to get Betsy working again long enough to save my research bookmarks. I’ve searched the internet but haven’t found the article again, only other sites and articles referencing similar answers. (“It’s horribly offensive and considered a slur” and “It’s not always used as a slur, it’s just a word meaning foreigner. Even sports leagues use it for foreign teams.”) No idea of how to determine which sources are accurate besides good ol’ “avoid wikis, Wikipedia, and social media sites.”

Without the article I referenced I have no way to be sure but I feel like I remember something about the writer being affiliated with a college or university perhaps, maybe connected to a language or cultural arts program…? 

18 hours ago, WillowDarkling said:

Also for the honorifics, -kun and -chan are used when you are familiar with someone, so anyone trying to keep a “social distance” of any kind, would just use familyname-san, I think. Of course the tone of voice can always be used to convey condescension etc.

So basically using -san would be the way to go? Basically, Saschelle is using the word with a title to compound the insult - like a certain relation of mine who calls people “Mister Jackwad” and “Little Miss Bitchfest” when he’s offended by their very presence. ...crud. Now I’m not sure if the word we’re talking about is a noun or adjective. My head hurts and I need some wine.

Edited by Ghost-of-a-Chance
Found an unfinished sentence. :|

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39 minutes ago, Ghost-of-a-Chance said:

…? I take it I missed something? Was this flagged, or reported, or did I unintentionally bugger something up? I’ve been down with a migraine all day (it’s still trying to bounce back up from headache to pickaxe pulverizing my frontal lobe) so this is the first I’ve heard or seen about anything. I’m confused...

Nothing to worry about! Willow is our forum moderator, and we have a rule about not allowing stories to be published in the forum—we’ve had people post stories here instead of the archive. So, our forum admin and Willow established a rule about no more than 10 sentences of story text being allowed. However, that really applies mainly to our challenge threads, where people tend to post whole chapters of what they’ve written in response to a challenge, to make sure the person making the challenge is pleased. That’s the sort of excess we try to avoid.

In this case, and particularly given the way Japanese works (especially those dratted honorifics), giving a bigger chunk of text was more helpful. The whole idea of this thread is to let writers work out questions relating to language, or terminology. Fortunately, we have Willow, who studies Japanese and keeps me fairly honest when it comes to proper terminology.  In return, I’m teaching her to curse in Sindarin. :lol: 

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1 hour ago, BronxWench said:

we have a rule about not allowing stories to be published in the forum—we’ve had people post stories here instead of the archive. So, our forum admin and Willow established a rule about no more than 10 sentences of story text being allowed.

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the explanation! I’ll try to keep that in mind from now on, WillowDarkling. :tup: Thanks again for your advice!

 

1 hour ago, BronxWench said:

In return, I’m teaching her to curse in Sindarin. :lol: 

:rofl: Y’all are a blast! 

 

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Don’t worry about the story content rule here, Ghost-of-a-Chance, because as BronxWench explained this forum is meant to be a place where authors can get help with things that are difficult or keeping them stuck. 

As for the gaijin thing, I am only basing my answer on my experience in Japan. I was told by my Japanese friends that it’s considered terribly rude and no person would use it around white people without meaning offence. 

And I think your safest bet when it comes to the honorifics is to use -san, because the tone of voice used when saying a name like “Smith-san” can imply the derogatory meaning. Just imagine the tone of voice when your relative calls people those charming names, and go from there.

Also, in Japan if you insist on calling someone by their family name + san it strongly implies that you do not want to become better acquainted with them, or allow them into your inner circle of friends, so to speak. As soon as you start using given name + san it implies that you now consider that person closer to you as a peer and someone you would call a friend.  

I hope this helps, even though I’m only basing this on my personal experience from Japan. I’m no expert, but I have studied the language so I do know a bit. :D 

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