Kun/Kimi/Buddy

Hi, I hope this is in the right place to post this, and there’s no disrespect intended, I’m just trying to understand - I’d appreciate your views on a translation question: as honorifics are important I’m trying to understand the nuances of any I hear (I’ll try to keep this short ahem) WaniKani are translating the kanji for ‘kun’ and ‘kimi’ (I mean the suffix/honorific ‘-kun’, and the word ‘you’ when used for a subordinate) as ’buddy’.

I’m struggling with it being used as a translation for the honorific ‘-kun’ or ‘kimi’, which are, as I understand it, only used for same age or younger close friends, and juniors in the workplace. ‘Buddy’ is American, mostly, it’s not used much in the UK, so I looked it up for context and whilst it is used for close friends, it also seems to be used for older people/ people you don’t know/casual acquaintances, and ‘-kun’ and ‘kimi’ would definitely not be used for random people where you don’t know their age or status, as that would be very disrespectful.

I’ve tried to come up with an alternative, and can only think of ‘junior’ or ‘mate’, neither of which are quite right, but ‘buddy’ Bothers Me – so – is ‘buddy’ a reasonable translation, do you think? Given how difficult it can be to translate something we don’t really have a concept for in the west? (I hope that doesn’t sound ignorant, or tactless, I may not be expressing myself very well – please point out if you think that’s the case). As you all have different experience of languages your input would be helpful, if anyone would like to comment, as ‘buddy’ is making me unreasonably annoyed? Thank you

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As far as I understand, “buddy” doesn’t really make sense. Kanjipedia gives the following meanings for 君:

①国などを治める人。天子。「君主」「幼君」 ②年長者や敬うべき人に対してつける敬称。「父君」 ③同輩または目下の人の名に添える軽い敬称。「諸君」 ④二人称代名詞の一つ。きみ。

I think 1 and 2 are older usages (I’ve only heard 君(ぎみ) as a suffix in fantasy books), while 3 and 4 are the ones you’re familiar with. But “buddy” doesn’t really make sense for any of them as far as I can tell.

Maybe someone else can confirm for sure though.

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I’m American and the way I hear “buddy” used in the vocative doesn’t really fit with くん for the most part. I feel like it doesn’t really get used genuinely? Like, someone’s stirring shit up and you call them “buddy” or “pal” and it’s like a warning that “I might be nice right now, but if you don’t cut it out, I won’t stay nice,” and other situations like that. It’s civil but not exactly friendly. And also used with people you don’t know. Things like that is I think how I mostly hear it used. (Maybe きみ could be used in those situations, idk)

I can think of some cases where it would (e.g. talking to a young kid, whether one you do or don’t know), and the general, non-vocative sense I feel like kinda fits with くん/きみ (although not usage-wise, of course), so I can see where WK was going with having it as a “meaning,” but it’s definitely not a perfect fit

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I hear it probably a dozen times a day here in the North East, gonna have to disagree it’s not used in the UK

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Thank you for replying - I’m only on level 9, so I’m not up to translating your reply yet, but I appreciate your explanation, and I’ll save this so I can check back when I’ve made more progress :). It helps knowing it’s not only me that feels ‘buddy’ isn’t…quite right… I’m not criticising WaniKani - I rely in them to teach me vocabulary, which they are, and as a beginner I realise there are nuances I haven’t understood yet, I’m just finding some things very distracting. Learning a new language is HARD (for me) so being reassured I didn’t misunderstand is encouraging. Thanks again

I’ve definitely been called ‘bud’ a shortened version of buddy by work colleagues. Just a slightly informal way to call people who you’re on good terms with. Idk it’s not perfect but I think it gets the point across for me.

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Here are my rough translations. Hope this helps.

①国などを治める人。天子。

“A person who rules a country (etc.). Emperor.”

②年長者や敬うべき人に対してつける敬称。

“Title of honor for someone older or who should be be respected.”

③同輩または目下の人の名に添える軽い敬称。

“Light title of honor attached to the name of one’s equal or subordinate.”

④二人称代名詞の一つ。きみ。

“A second person pronoun. You (kimi).”

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Aaah, thank you - that was exactly what I thought. I’m not American, but that was my first feeling, from exposure to American films and series, so I did do some research as I realise I may not have understood the context correctly. Then I had to try to decide what would be a more appropriate word to use - at which point I realised why ‘buddy’ might have been used because - I don’t know what might be more appropriate either? It mostly bothered me because ‘buddy’ is almost exclusively an American expression, so it was jarring to me as it’s simply unfamiliar. To be fair, I don’t know what they could have used instead, but I kind-of understand what is meant, and I can certainly remember it when I see the kanji, so…ok

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It is used in the UK, I know, just not as often as in America, I don’t think? If you don’t mind me asking, where in the North East? My family is from Newcastle, so I’m interested. Either way, I think, ‘buddy’ is probably used in the same way as in America - meaning not specifically as a respectful way to a ‘younger or subordinate person’, more as a ‘I don’t necessarily know your name, but we’re having a conversation’ type of thing? I mean, do you think ‘buddy’ is a reasonable translation for ‘kun or kimi’?

Ah, thank you, I appreciate that. Ack - ‘buddy’ just isn’t appropriate for any of those definitions! Except possibly ‘kimi’. Again, though, I can’t figure out what might be better. However, again, thank you, I have more translations and I always appreciate them :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

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Actually, I’m seeing “Buddy” as a translation in some dictionaries. I don’t really like it myself, but it does exist.

When I went through this, I made my synonym “kun”. Since I already knew the word and the translation was a bit odd, I just did that.

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You’re not the only one who thinks that ‘buddy’ is a weird choice for that.

I’m a native American English speaker, and at least for me, ‘buddy’ seems like a somewhat old-fashioned and infrequently used (and not quite but almost ‘archaic’) word that just doesn’t feel like a good fit for ‘kimi’ and/or ‘kun’.

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In my opinion, honorifics don’t really translate easily at all. I leave them in for my pro wrestling fan translations and just explain the more uncommon ones in a translator’s note. At least for me personally, I just use my friends’ names when talking to/about them (in English), so there’s just not really any real equivalent of Japanese honorifics in my regular English speech, except for cases where Mr. or Ms. or professor or something like that would be right choice.

So I don’t really have strong opinions on “buddy” because I’m not sure there’s a word they could choose that would be a better gloss. I feel like you’re better off just learning くん as “kun” and the like. You’ll get a sense for how it’s actually used pretty quickly when you start reading/watching Japanese media.

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