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How to say "mister" in a polite way in Japanese.

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Kouhai
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Hi!
I see often children and teens calling older men or women that are not relatives, おじさん and おばさん, but that seems way too familiar to me, or am I wrong? Is there a polite way to call someone that you don't know the name or profession, like someone on the street for instance, I have a blank here. I remember 奥さん, お嬢さん for ladies but that's all. Thanks.
 
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mdchachi

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Those terms are used in a "miss" or "mister" sense. So I don't think it's too familiar. It only feels that way when you relate them to the English words. Of course there is お兄さん & お姉さん (brother & sister) that can be used in the generic sense also. On the street, though, I think you'll mostly hear a すみません (excuse me...) to get somebody's attention without a "miss" or "mister" equivalent. In shops when they're running after you to give you your change or something they'd use お客様. I also can't think of another generic term you'd use in the same way you might say in English, "Excuse me, Sir... Sir!"
 

Toritoribe

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I agree with using すみません instead of personal pronouns, and I want to point out that おじさん/おばさん could sound rude.
 

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In the online dictionaries I checked, they seem to say that it was something kids would say. I was under the impression it was not something adults could say, unless they are familiar with that person in some way. I also sensed that a 30' something man or woman would be offended to be called おじさん/おばさ by someone in their 20 or even a teenager.
 

Toritoribe

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Yeah, your understanding is correct.
 

Mike Cash

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In the online dictionaries I checked, they seem to say that it was something kids would say. I was under the impression it was not something adults could say, unless they are familiar with that person in some way. I also sensed that a 30' something man or woman would be offended to be called おじさん/おばさ by someone in their 20 or even a teenager.
If it's a guy you can get them back by addressing them as ぼく
 

butarox

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What you can "get away with" (not really get away...just accepted forms of address) depends on how old you are. The older I get, the easier it is for me to call younger folk (up to their 20's or thereabouts) お兄さん or お姉さん (being careful to avoid sexual overtones with the お姉さん stuff). The BEST thing you can do (in my experience) is ask their name (last name), remember it, and use it.

Me: 失礼ですけど、お名前は、何とおっしゃいますか?(or a lesser formal version if the situation is different)
Them: 田中です。
Me: 田中さんですね。初めまして、(self intro)。
And from there on out during the discussion, you throw in their name (instead of "you"/anata or whatever),
田中さんは、お仕事はこの近くですか?

If it's a pure street situation where you've never met them, don't know them, and aren't likely to see them again, just go with すみません to stop them/engage with them. For the rest of the conversation it'll be apparent that you're addressing them, so you probably won't need to use any pronouns with (although 旦那さん、お父さん or 奥さん could be used here without causing offense in some situations).
 

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I saw 旦那さん on some websites but I'm not familiar with it when not used for husband. For young people I also heard きみ, but here again, it sounds too familiar. I agree that one wants to be careful with お姉さん, especially if you are a man.
 

mdchachi

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I've never heard 旦那さん used generically although the dictionary claims it has that meaning. きみ is a familiar "you" so it's not something you'd use with somebody you don't know. It can be a term of endearment.
 

Mike Cash

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I've never heard 旦那さん used generically although the dictionary claims it has that meaning.
I use it that way quite a bit.

Did you know that 旦那 and "donor" come from the same origin?
 

mdchachi

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I use it that way quite a bit.

Did you know that 旦那 and "donor" come from the same origin?
No, I've never looked into the roots of that word.
When do you use it not to refer to somebody's husband?
 

Majestic

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When do you use it not to refer to somebody's husband?
It is roughly symmetrical to the way おくさん is used to refer to women (even if you do not know whether or not they are married). Still, it should be said again that it is much more common to just shout out すみません until the target person's attention is caught.
 
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Mike Cash

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No, I've never looked into the roots of that word.
When do you use it not to refer to somebody's husband?
Mostly at work, when I have occasion to address a driver from another company but have no way of knowing what company he works for. If I can tell who they work for, I can address them by their company name plus さん. If they're way younger than me I would use お兄さん or maybe あんちゃん. I'm fifty, so there is no one still of working age that I would be calling おじさん, おとうさん, おじいさん, or any variation thereof. Although it should be noted that I might use any of those toward those very same people under different circumstances. I usually avoid second-person pronouns like the plague in all circumstances.

In addition to the previously mentioned すみません, people should keep in mind that もしもし isn't limited to just answering the telephone; it may also be used to get someone's attention.
 

mdchachi

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That's interesting. I've never run across the generic danna "in the field" so to speak. But I haven't been in that kind of situation where it would make sense to use it, I don't think.
 
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