July 29, 2010

Which is harsher?

Which is harsher, kisama or temee? Linguistically they're both used the same way and have approximately the same meaning: "you, who I despise". I was under the impression that temee was stronger.

But as I think about it, I can remember two cases in anime of girls using temee. One was Suzuka in Macademi Wasshoi, and the other was Vita in Nanoha StrikerS. And I can't think of any case of a girl using kisama.

So I'm beginning to wonder if kisama is actually more harsh. I think the reason I thought it was less so was because it's used so heavily in DBZ by Vegita and Piccolo, and occasionally even by Goku, and those to whom it is addressed don't respond to it.

This isn't the kind of question a dictionary can answer. I need someone familiar with colloquial usage.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 07:58 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 Kisama, definitely.  I base this only on watching anime for 15 years, but you can watch a lot of anime in 15 years.  Any time someone's really mad they say kisama.

Posted by: atomic_fungus at July 29, 2010 08:50 AM (gLbEB)


I can think of one case of a woman using kisama, that being Kiyama in the last episode of Railgun.

I guess I got used to hearing kisama because they use it so often and so casually in DBZ.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 29, 2010 09:22 AM (+rSRq)

3 There are archaic social circumstances where kisama is appropriate for non-insulting use (not that I'm particularly familiar with the details). Thus you'll occasionally get a character who uses it a heck of a lot, not because they're always mad, but because it's a part of their speech affectation.

If I remember correctly, it's omae, omee, temee, then kisama (though omee is mostly girl-punk...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at July 29, 2010 09:30 AM (mRjOr)

4 Kyoichi applies "kissama" to Muryou right in the classroom (Shingu, somewhere around ep.23 -- the meeting over the terrible sandwich).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 29, 2010 10:31 AM (/ppBw)


You hear it a fair amount from young guys trying to be tough. The same guys will be heard using ore.

It also seems to be thug-ben, which is why the guys in DBZ all seem comfortable with it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 29, 2010 11:31 AM (+rSRq)

6 But that's just it. It's not that the thug guys are using an unusual term as a form of unusual Japanese; they're using a perfectly normal Japanese term in a perfectly normal Japanese usage, but a lot more often, because they're -thugs-. Nice people don't go around calling others kisama often, not because it's not in their verbal arsenal, but because they're nice people who don't get into those situations.

However, on top of that, it's also used in a form of polite-but-extremely-archaic Japanese, so occasionally someone who shouldn't be using it in the normal-insulting sense will use it a lot. I'm sure I've heard a couple of icily-formal warrior-girl types use it in that sense, but it's been long enough that I can't recall specific examples. Darn brain must be going out on me...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at July 29, 2010 02:15 PM (pWQz4)

7 I think kisama is definitely worse, but you won't hear either one under normal circumstances- they're both rude enough to be really unacceptable (unlike omae, which is kind of rude, but is used quite a bit in day to day speech.)

But as some other people have noted kisama used to be a respectful form (one story I've heard is that it became insulting due to being used sarcastically by drill sergeants chewing soldiers out, but I have no idea if that's true.) Onore is another one like that- used to be respectful and is now rude. One example of a female character who uses kisama quite a bit because she's speaking archaically rather than because she's trying to be rude is Rukia from Bleach. Threw me a bit when I first saw the show.

Posted by: tds at July 31, 2010 06:52 PM (0SOgY)

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