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お and ご as word beautifiers

お and ご as word beautifiers

The characters お and ご are commonly added as prefixes to words to symbolize either the speaker’s respect to the person for whom the beautifier is used or a respect towards the cultural significance of something. For example, the お in お名前 is used to address the conversation partner with respect and as such should never be used in lieu of the standard 名前 when addressing yourself. In its own respect, as a beautifier, the prefix お present in words such as お寿司, お金 and お茶 relay the speaker’s conscious value towards these entities. The ご in ご専門 and the ご in ご飯 have the same effect of respect and beautification respectively (though in the case of ご飯, the pronunciation of 飯 alone is never actually used). Another point to consider is that in not applying the beautifier to such words, you can adversely convey that you do not value these entities. It can become contentious what impression that may give off, particularly with entities such as money. What’s best to keep in mind is the context of the conversation and the culture of the language itself. While it may be admirable to denounce the value of money in Western societies (though even in Western societies, the tone of the speaker and the impression he or she gives off is highly influenced by the context of the conversation), modern Japanese society has gone as far as appropriating values of wealth, commerce and fortune in their mythology, folklore and religion, deeming these all highly sought after and respected qualities in their own right. Relatively, the お beautifier is mainly used with native Japanese words, and the ご beautifier is generally used with Chinese loan words, while neither are used with European loan words.

寿司 = すし (sushi)
茶 = ちゃ (tea)
金 = かね (money)
名前 = なまえ (name)
専門 = せんもん (specialty/major)
飯 = はん (rice)