oRandom question about language in My Neighbor Totoro


#1

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?


#2

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


#3

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.


#4

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

:wink:

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.


#5

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.


#6

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.


#7

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


#8

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).


#9

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


#10

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


#11

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.


#12

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.


#13

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


#14

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


#15

@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.


#16

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


#17

I assume you mean Moebo? :wink:


#18

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”


#19

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.


#20

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