query: sarcastic antonymic nicknames

Midori Osumi nekubunpoo at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 26 02:58:52 UTC 2009

To the suggestion Nicholas made, re.Tora-san,
i think it s not the case.  Tora is shortened form of Torajiroo, which is
his real name, and his name does not make us feel sarcastic. Maybe, he was
born in the tiger year, too, which is the reason for his name...
 In fact, Japanese does not have this habit, i guess, Sarcasm, or irony,
which may be heard often, and probably related to the idea such as wits,
among esp British people (?)but in Japan, it is not considered as anything a
good thing to do.  We have Senryuu, a literary art form, which is like
Haiku, short poem, in which people purt their criticism in ironical, subtle
way, against the society or authority in the form of poem, as they couldnt
say that openly.
re pensons'names, the japanese language council or something reviews
characters which are usable or not, for names (of newly born children), and
they sometimes eliminate some characters which are associated to evil,
death, excrements, curse, etc,, as they view that these naming may lead to

Midori Osumi

2009/11/26 Nicholas Ostler <nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk>

> David Gil wrote:
>> A little bit under 24 hours after posting the original query, I've
>> received a slew of examples from English, a few nice examples from other
>> European languages, but very little from the rest of the world -- the only
>> clear-cut example so far coming from the Australian language Bardi (thanks
>> to Claire Bowern). So are Humorous Antonymic Nicknames really a mostly
>> European phenomenon? Or is it just that us mostly-European-language-speaking
>> typologists don't know enough about the relevant facts in other parts of the
>> world?
>> David
> A possible non-Western example is the loveable loser hero of Japanese
> comedy movies Tora-san, which could be translated as "Mr Tiger" - probably
> the animal he least resembles (and written with the correct character 寅 -
> though this means the Chinese zodiacal beast, rather than the actual
> animal).
> See, for more details of this antihero,
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otoko_wa_Tsurai_yo
> More generally, in terms of antonymic nicknames in non-Western traditions,
> one thinks of the bizarre nature of Nahuatl honorifics, which seem to be
> largely drawn from hypocoristics (e.g. the suffix -tzin in Malintzin,
> 'Malinche', Cortes's interpreter. This phenomenon (and its possible converse
> - honorifics used as insults) are discussed very briefly in my book, Empires
> of the Word (HarperCollins 2005) pp. 15-16, referring to the learned
> discussion by Frances Karttunen 1990 - Conventions of Polite Speech in
> Nahuatl, Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl, 20: pp. 281-96.
> --
> Nicholas Ostler
> Chairman, Foundation for Endangered Languages
> www.ogmios.org
> nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk
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