Keigo IV – Word Beautification

“I find it really hard to remember Keigo” 

I have previously gone over sonkeigo (respectful keigo)kenjogo (humble keigo) and even covered some general rules for using keigo. But there is one large aspect of keigo that I missed out which is “bikeigo” 美敬語 or “word beautification”.

Word BeautificationBikeigo is something even beginner Japanese learners have probably come across with words like おかね, おちゃ, おなまえ, おさけ, ごはん, all of these basic words can be said without the お or ご at the front of the word, such as かね or ちゃ but then the word becomes harsh, crude and if said taken as being quite rude.

Bikeigo takes nouns and adds お or ご to the front to make it sound more polite. These words tend to be items that would belong to or are related to the other person, so if you were in correspondence with someone you wouldn’t say あなたのてがみ but おてがみ, or if your partner has a question you would say ごしつもん. You also wouldn’t beatify ‘foreign’ words like “ゴルフ”.


As a general rule if a noun uses onyomi (“chinese” reading/older word) you would add ご and if it has kunyomi (“Japanese” reading/modern word) you would add おSo when you have a word that uses a combination of characters like 返事 (that has the onyomi for 返) you would use ご, as opposed to 返し (which would be the kunyomi) which would use お.

Another sign that a word uses お is if it’s a word was made in Japan, which is hard unless you’re told it is, but often these will be words related to the modern era (but not foreign katakana words).

Here are some common nouns which use bikeigo:

 

お手洗い
おてあらい
lavatory
お客様
おきゃくさま
customer
お土産
おみやげ
souvenir
お電話
おでんわ
phone
お砂糖
おさとう
sugar
お邪魔
おじゃま
disturbance
お写真
おちゃしん
photograph
お天気
おてんき
weather
お菓子
おかし
confections
お肉
おにく
meat
お宅
おたく
house
お名前
おなまえ
name
お世話
おせわ
assistance
お会計
おかいけい
bill, cashier
お勘定
おかんじょう
bill (2)
お愛想
おあいそう
courtesy, compliments
お世辞
おせじ
flattery
お釣り;お釣
おつり
change (i.e. money)
お手紙
おてがみ
letter
お塩
おしお
salt
お魚
おさかな
fish
お目
おめ
eyes
お仲
おなか
stomach
お上
おじょう
government
お住い
おすまい
residence
ご主人
ごしゅじん
husband
ご病気
ごびょうき
sickness
ご心配
ごしんぱい
worry
ご旅行
ごりょこう
a trip
ご連絡
ごれんらく
contact
ご両親
ごりょうしん
parents
ご遠慮
ごえんりょ
hold back
ご注意
ごちゅうい
be careful, watchout
ご親類
ごりんるい
relatives
ご相談
ごそうだん
consultation
ご近所
ごふきん
neighbourhood, vicinity
ご親切
ごしんせつ
kindness
ご苗字
ごみょうじ
last name
ご面倒
ごめんどう
trouble
ご教授
ごきょうじゅ
instruction
ご訂正
ごていせい
corrections

 

You can learn all of these and more keigo on the J-Talk Online Complete Keigo Memrise Course
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