第378課: 美化語

     美化語びかご is the embellishment of words. 美化 means “beautification”. 美化語, at its basic understanding, is making one’s speech sound more refined. 美化語 elevates one’s speech to a well-mannered style. Grammatically, it is neither 丁寧語ていねいご “polite speech” nor 敬語. However, it applies to 敬語 but is usually classified as 丁寧語. Several 美化語 phrases have come from traditional women’s speech.

     The honorific お- is generally added to words regardless of origin. Even foreign loanwords such as ズボン are used with お- in 美化語. Words like 勉強 can either be seen with お- or ご-. This is sure to cause more confusion. For most words, though, the general お- and ご- distinctions are maintained.  

お- VS ご-

    お- is used with native words and 和製語 (Sino-Japanese words made in Japan such as telephone). ご- is used only with Sino-Japanese words not used with お-. み-, おみ-, and おんみ- are used in words with religious or imperial importance. 

 お庭 Garden お天気Weather
 お飲み物 Drinks お菓子 Sweets
 お食事 Meal お店 Store
 お料理 Cooking ご祝儀 Congratulatory gift
 ご機嫌 Mood ご挨拶 Greeting
 ご結婚 Marriage ご連絡Contact

  When an honorific prefix is used, it may greatly alter the word.

 飯(めし)⇒ご飯(はん) Rice; meal
 汁(しる)⇒お汁(つゆ) Soup; broth; dipping sauce*
 水⇒お冷 Cold water
 うまい⇒おいしい Delicious
 便所⇒お手洗い Lavatory

*: This definition is specific to お汁.

Note: Other forms of 美化語 include anything that euphemizes a phrase. Another word for this is 雅語. Since they are hard to pinpoint, they will not be discussed. Dictionaries will label 雅語 with 雅.

The Relationship between 美化語 and 丁寧語

     丁寧語 utilizes more polite nouns rather than honorific prefixes. In women’s speech, however, honorific prefixes are commonly attached to everyday words. In more respectful language, this gender restriction disappears and sentence patterns conform.

1. おんでください。(美化語)
    Please drink water. 

2a. おをおべにならないほうがよろしいといますわ。(美化語)
2b. お肉をお食べにならないほうがよろしいかと思われます。(敬語)
2c. お肉をお食べにならないほうがよろしいでしょう。(敬語)
     I think that it best not to eat meat. 

3. ご協力を頂くために
    In order to receive your (honorable) cooperation (敬語)

     If you overuse 美化語, you may sound sarcastic and pretentious. Some words like おトイレ, おコーヒー, おタバコ may be seen in other settings and in the speech of older women. No single description can make a good generalization of when and when not to do this.

    It is rare to see loan words take honorifics, but when they do they normally take お-, but some like おビール and おソース are more common. Also, it is imperative to use these suffixes in reference to things during tea ceremonies.

美化語 from Women’s Speech

   Lots of words with お- used to only be used by women but are now used by everyone. 

 おかか Finely chopped katsuobushi. お欠き Thin, dried, baked mochi
 お菜(かず) Side dish おから Tofu residue
 お強(こわ) Glutinous rice steamed with red beans おじや Rice gruel
 おつけ Soups おでん Oden
 お腹(なか) Stomach おなら Fart
 お萩(はぎ) Rice ball coated with red beans おまる Potty

The Necessity of 美化語

     Some words are almost always accompanied with honorific prefixes while some are always used with them. To find out whether a noun has to have an honorific prefix, you should first see if a word can be looked up in a dictionary without the prefix. If a word is 美化語-sensitive, most dictionaries will tell you.

 Definition Word 仮名 美化語 Always or Usually?
 Hot water 湯 ゆ お湯 Usually
 Tea 茶 お茶 お茶 Usually
 Rice/meal 飯 はん ご飯 Always
 Ghost 化け ばけ お化け Always
 Flattery 世辞 せじ お世辞 Always
 Stomach 腹 はら お腹* Always

*: This word must have お- so it can be read as おなか.

4. おがこのボイラーからます。
    The hot water comes out with this boiler.

5. その古い(お)しろにはおけがるらしい。
    It sounds like ghosts appear in that old castle.

6. お世辞せじう。
    To give a compliment.

7. その(お)知らせを受け取らなかった。
    I didn’t receive that notice. 

8. おせち
    Osechi (a food served during New Year’s)

9. お節介せっかいはよせ。
    Mind your own business.

10. お腹がい。
      My stomach hurts.

11. はら一撃いちげきらう。
      To receive a blow in the stomach.

12. 入浴後にゅうよくごはおながしててておいてください。
      You must run the (hot) water off after taking a bath.

美化語 and Change of Meaning

     At times when an honorific prefix is attached to a word there is a change in meaning. There is usually always a reasonable relationship between the two. 

 Meaning without お  Meaning with お 
 Eight 八つ Snack おやつ
 Child 子 God’s son み子
 Master 主人 Someone’s husband ご主人
 Family 家族 Someone’s family ご家族
 Fishing 釣り Change (coins) お釣り
 To squeeze 絞る Hand towel お絞り

Word Note: おしぼり is an example of where an honorific prefix is added to 連用形 of a verb to refer to an object in relationship to the verb. 

13. 8つある。
      To have eight things.

14. おやつをってきた?
      Did you bring a snack?

15. バナナはおやつに入りますか。
      Are bananas in the snacks?

Culture Note: This is a cliche question that came about from a period when most schools did not allow snacks on field trips, and if they did, there was a 300 yen budget.  

16. りにきたい。
      I like to go fishing.

17. おりは結構けっこうです。
      Keep the change.

18a. 彼女主人しゅじんづらをしている。
18b. 彼女えらぶっている。(More natural)
18c. 彼女は偉そうに振舞ふるまっている。(More natural)
        She acts like the boss.

19. ご主人しゅじんはお元気げんきですか。
      Is your husband all right?