query: sarcastic antonymic nicknames

Dolgor Guntsetseg dolgor.guntsetseg at LING.UNI-STUTTGART.DE
Thu Nov 26 13:44:21 UTC 2009

Dear all,

in Mongolian, such nicknames are normal. Most people have a nickname, 
sometimes two or more. The way to give a nickname is differently, 
sometimes it concerns certain character, sometimes description of body 
parts and so on. And most of these nicknames are humorous. Here are some 
One friend of mine has the nickname "eyebrow". He got this nickname 
therefore, if he is drunken (just after two or three bottles beer),  he 
has upside-down V eyebrows.
Another one has the nickname "muscle". Yes, he has big muscle, but that 
is not the reason. He always tries to show his muscles (if there are 
girls!) doing it quite casually. Unlike to Eyebrow, Mucscle does not 
like his nickname, so people do not use this nickname before his  face.


David Gil schrieb:
> Thanks, Midori and Mike, for these clarifications.
> But I still need to ask Midori one further question...  My original 
> use of the term "Sarcastic..." was perhaps unfortunate, since it 
> implies a certain negativity, or verbal aggression, that is definitely 
> *not* an intrinstic part of the phenomenon in question.  (For example, 
> in my original query, calling a dark-skinned person "white" was, if 
> anything, a compliment, in a society which, like many others, prefers 
> lighter skin tones.  Similarly, many or most of the English and other 
> examples that have been offered seem to me to be affectionate, and 
> devoid of any negative connotations.)  Which is why I now prefer to 
> use the more neutral term "Humorous Antonymic Nicknames".  So my 
> question to Midori, then, is as follows: given the claimed Japanese 
> desire to avoid the perceived unpleasantness of sarcasm, are there 
> nevertheless examples of Humorous Antonymic Nicknames that can be used 
> in a non-sarcastic way, or is the phenomenon of Humorous Antonymic 
> Nicknames really absent from Japan (as it apparently is in most parts 
> of Indonesia)?
> David
>> Yes, I agree with Midori fully. As a semi-outsider
>> observer-participant in Japan (for 18 years!), I must admit that my
>> sarcastic wit was NOT fully appreciated ... EXCEPT in the Deaf
>> community (where they love sarcasm!) and among exchange students from
>> China (mostly Shanghai) and Mongolia (well, i only had ONE of those).
>> Appreciation of sarcasm was one of a list of features that I would
>> list that separates Japanese Deaf culture as distinct within "normal"
>> Japanese culture.
>> Irony on the other goes over quite well ... with almost everyone in 
>> Japan.
>> On Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 5:58 AM, Midori Osumi <nekubunpoo at gmail.com> 
>> wrote:
>>> 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
>>> discrimination.
>>> 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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