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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Japanese Language Trivia of the Day:

Once again, this is a word that I've learned because it applies to me, and I've never thought it was anything special. But it's one of those words that will win you an impressed reaction if you have the chance to use it.

年子
としご
toshi go

Rikai-chan will tell you that 年子 means the second child born within a year, but by that definition, the second in a set of twins could be called such, right? According to Japanese dictionaries, it means siblings who are separated by about a year, and in actual usage, there's some room to stretch that year out. I was told that my sister is 年子 even though she was born fifteen months after me. The general rule of thumb that I use is if the pregnancy turnover rate is fast enough to elicit raised eyebrows, low whistles, or off-color jokes, you can use 年子.

Usage:
When somebody asks me how old my sister is, I say "年子です。"
If somebody asks me 何人兄弟, I say "兄*と年子の妹がいます。
"

* Edited to reflect the wisdom of the comment below

6 comments:

Julian said...

"お兄さんと年子の妹がいます。"
Why would you say お兄さん instead of兄 only?

(I'm sorry, my Japanese isn't at your level yet. - But that way I can learn a lot.)

AzzidisRidden said...

Hmmm. Good point.

I'd actually never thought about it, but now that you mention it, it's something that I've been doing wrong.

If I was speaking to him directly, I'd call him お兄さん, because he's older than me and our family dynamic is such that I can't imagine calling him anything-ちゃん. And when I ask my elementary school students about their siblings at middle school, I always attach さん because it the proper way to refer to other people's siblings. Guess I was just in the habit.

But yeah, if I'm not speaking directly to him, if I'm talking to others about him, I should be referring to him as 兄.

Good looking out, Julian. Thanks!

Claytonian said...

Thanks, I'll use it too. BTW, why can I read the latest post in the RSS reader, but not here?

And that weird random resizing that happens around here...

Defendership said...

To answer your first question, Clay, it's probably because it was accidentally posted early and then taken down. I've done that a few times myself, and that's what's responsible for any RSS-feed-only posts you might find.

For the second question, part of it is probably due to copy-pasting, and the fact that the "preview" doesn't accurately reflect the final post's fonts. I once screwed around with the fonts because they weren't to my liking, only to have them come out all mangled on the other side. Booooo

Anonymous said...

I am at work otherwise I would use my blogger identity, but could you modify that usage? such as someone who is two years apart?

'ninengo' or something like that.

I can't write in Japanese on this computer, so sorry for the romaji

AzzidisRidden said...

Nope, as far as I know, 年子 is a one of a kind deal. Ni-nen-go or san-nen-go, said in conversation would most likely be heard as 二年, so where 年子 carries it's own definition, ni-nen-go would come across as "two-years-later sibling."
I bet native speakers would understand what you meant... but it wouldn't be right.

The standard way of expressing the age of siblings (or people) more than one year older than you is done by using the kun-yomi of a Japanese number plus 上(うえ)or 下 (shita):

Brother is two years younger.
弟は二つ下です。
Otouto wa futatsu shita desu.

Girlfriend is three years older.
彼女は三つ上です。
Kanojo wa mitsu ue desu.

I've also heard people say 一個 (ikko) or 二個(niko) and so on, in the above examples.