So shuai! And has an IQ of 200! (hiiyaa) wrote in linguaphiles,
So shuai! And has an IQ of 200!
hiiyaa
linguaphiles

On the Japanese usage of "okasan"

I'm struggling with the usage of the word okasan in Japanese. Is it common or even OK in Japanese to call other people than your biological mother okasan in a "mother of this house/family" sense? Or is okasan only reserved to people who consider themselves being related (biologically or through marriage, etc.)? I do speak Turkish and Swedish and I'd say the former usage doesn't really work in neither language. But I've seen that usage in at least one other language: Hindi (which I don't speak but am familiar with).

I watch a lot of (fan-)subbed Japanese TV shows, mainly dramas and varieties, and I've noticed translators rarely translate okasan to English, and use it as it is instead. I take that as "okasan =/= mom or mother". Am I completely off?

At the moment, I'm watching a drama called Utahime. The story revolves around Taro, a soldier during the WWII. He has lost his memories and is taken in by a family when he's around 20-22 years old.

He calls the dad of the family "Shachou" as he's learning a profession from him and probably views him as his boss first and foremost.

He calls the mother "Okasan" "Okusan" and I don't get the feeling he's viewing her as his real mother in the English (or Swedish or Turkish) meaning of the word. This is where I'm unsure; does the Japanese word okasan allow for a broader usage of the word? As I've said above, I've noticed Hindi speakers using their 'equivalent' word ma-ji in this broader sense to include among others; ladies of a certain age as a sign of respect, mothers of friends, etc. Much like "aunty". Is it possible Taro is doing the same? His usage of okasan is never translated into English in the drama, while other children are translated saying "Mom" when they call their mothers (even Taro's 'Okasan's other children call her "Mom").

I'm so very confused at the moment and haven't gotten a truly satisfying answer to this anywhere. I'd be so thankful if you'd help me!

Edit: I'm so sorry for the confusion, if any. Taro calls the mother "Okusan". I'd love to read your thoughts about how that'd be translated in a face-to-face conversation where he says, for example:

"Okusan is going to be a grandmother soon."

Edit the second: I'm thankful for all of your helpful insights! It's very appreciated :D.
Tags: japanese, words
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