Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Reasons for omitting titles like 'さん' after names of entertainers, performers and public figures

記者ハンドブック 新聞用字用語集」によると、




石川遼のような生命保険 (第一生命の商品のキャッチフレーズ)




Meta note: Part of the intention behind this question is to work out how to handle bilingual content. ref: meta: Do questions have to be in English?

share|improve this question
日本語でもいいんですが答えは存じておりません。 – YOU Jun 27 '11 at 5:52
As @Rob pointed out in the meta discussion, while questions entirely in Japanese are a great idea, I think it'd be ideal to provide at least a brief sum-up in English (especially for such a question that could still be of interest to beginners). – Dave Jun 28 '11 at 3:16
And although this is the exact opposite to what you are asking, I remember once having a discussion about the perfunctory use of 'さま' when referring to any public figures in TV news, including some most unsavoury characters (a few years ago, mentions of ビンラデン様 were fairly common on Japanese news)... – Dave Jun 28 '11 at 3:23
@Dave Thanks for the edit. / That's an interesting one, 'さま'. I've added a question about that issue here. I hope you can help out there with the source and/or context of "ビンラデン様" (I can't remember hearing it on TV) – ento Jun 29 '11 at 5:49

Well I guess it's the same as any other culture when talking about a public person. You wouldn't call Beckham, Mr Beckham when he scores a goal.

I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule mentioned in that reporter's handbook though. I can't see newspapers omitting the honor title for every public figure.

share|improve this answer
May I push forward and ask why it's universally ok to omit the honor title ? :) (or it may be out of scope for JL&U). – ento Jun 27 '11 at 12:54
Regarding your 2nd point, yes, my quote above limits the omission to sports and entertainment section only. – ento Jun 27 '11 at 12:55
@ento: I would say it is because the person's name is perceived as a brand and thus is used like you would use "Mac Donald's, Nestle, Nike...etc." (complete guess, don't expect a source :) ) – repecmps Jun 27 '11 at 13:01
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was common reference like Mr Beckham when scoring a goal prior to about the 1970s in England on the BBC but I could be wrong. Anyway this assumption may not be universal. – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 13:40
@repecmps: Ah, so "Beckham" means an abstract entity embodying the concept of "Beckhamness", not a person. That seems plausible to me, but again a complete guess. – ento Jun 27 '11 at 15:28

My understanding was that for famous people, adding of "san" actually denotes familiarity with the person. Like having actually met them. When you have never met them you would drop the san. I may be similar to why you don't include San after titles when referring to people in your own company.

share|improve this answer
Omitting 'さん' for family members and coworkers/colleagues (when talking to strangers) has to do with notions of inner/outer circles and politeness, I don't think familiarity comes into play. – Dave Jun 28 '11 at 4:55
Thanks for you answer. The interesting thing is, reporters add "san" to famous people in local news articles: ex. "プロゴルファーの石川遼さん". Also, there are other titles in stock that could be used, like 氏. (I think the question title was too narrow in this sense.. going to edit now) – ento Jun 28 '11 at 16:22

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.