oRandom question about language in My Neighbor Totoro

I went and saw a showing of Totoro at my local theater recently, and I picked up that Mei always refers to herself in third-person. Is this like a “little kid thing” or was it like some kind of eccentric trait that they gave her character?

1 Like

From what I’ve read, it does happen but its very childish sounding. I see it happen sometimes in anime, generally female characters trying to be かわいい. Nico from Love Live does it too when she talks in her idol persona


It’s a childish way of speaking mostly used by young kids. Sometimes it’s also used by young women/teen girls, in which case it’s more of a purposely/overly cutesy way of speaking. So depending on a character’s age, it could also be an eccentric character trait.


What are you talking about? Gaidheal always speaks like! What’s odd about that, Gaidheal wants to know?


As others have said, it’s a speech pattern that’s common with very young Japanese children, and which is sometimes deliberately adopted by girls/women when attempting to be very “cute” - カワイイ!! - indeed.

I believe it is much more common in manga and anime than in actual Japan, but perhaps someone with more direct experience can comment on that aspect.


One of the first graders at my school used to speak in third person all the time. Her home room teacher eventually got her out of the habit though.

Sometimes I refer to myself in the third person when speaking to my Japanese boyfriend. I should clarify that I am also a man. Not sure how that makes him feel haha.


Yes, it’s also used for this kawaii effect by Morbo


On a side note, something which once threw me for a bit was a woman talking to a (male) child and directly addressing him via 僕ぼく (which would usually be the first person pronoun used by the kid).

By the way, is the small “o” in front of the title Japanese honorifics? Perhaps it should be “Random oQuestions” instead?


I think you have found the ultimate weeb mannerism. “Watashi would like some oWater, kudasai”.


This is something that native English speaking children do as well. My 2.5 year old still does this currently, as do some of his playmates.

I don’t think I have ever heard a child speak like that. Maybe its different in other English speaking countries, but that is definitely not common in America.

1 Like

Gay? Oh! You mean about the third person thing. :wink:

Oh aye! I’d totally forgotten about Morbo! :slight_smile:

1 Like

@Joshua1207 Nor have I, neither in the USA, where I am now, nor in the UK, where I am originally from. Not saying it doesn’t happen ever, but it must be very rare, as I never encountered it, despite doing a lot of work with and around children.

1 Like

ミサちゃん was a fan of doing this in Death Note, particularly when she was trying to appeal to her imagined stalker/kidnapper. It came across as very over-the-top cutesy, but it was also interestingly nuanced. Like, she wasn’t a complete airhead and using it constantly - she showed an awareness of when it would be more effective to refer to herself in third person. I would assume that a (teen or adult) native Japanese speaker would use it with this kind of awareness too.

And have a gif because that’s how I roll

I assume you mean Moebo? :wink:


I remember a Japanese girl I was seeing telling me this was an acceptable way of speaking and at the time I knew no alternatives to “watashi”. Thinking it was useful (as a 25 year old man) I tried it with a Japanese friend working in a bar the very same day. She broke down laughing and shouting “kawaii” uncontrollably. I never used it again.

EDIT: I just remembered telling my wife this story some years later and her breaking down disgustedly shouting “気持ち悪い”


Disclaimer: None of this is fact that I can identify myself.

I wonder if it originates from children being called by their names. Just as they learn everything else by name… they refer to themselves as ‘whatever the child’s name is’. I can see how that can be seen as child-like. Thinking about it this way actually does make it kind of adorable I guess.

Though after a while they should learn the difference between what they’re being referred to as and how they should refer to themselves.

I like this idea.

Here’s something on toddlers doing this in English: https://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/language-development/using-the-third-person.aspx

1 Like