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Context: A character is searching for a bird.

Speaker:

どこにも いないや
考えて みれば、広い世界で 自由にくらすほうが・・・・・。
当人のためには幸せかもね。

Does 当人 refer to the bird?

1 Answer 1

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The use of terms like 本人, 当人, 善人, 人格, 人生 and so on for non-humans should generally be avoided when that's easily possible. For example, it's usually easy to choose to say 犬の性格 instead of 犬の人格. However, for some words, finding a better expression can be tricky. In your example, it's possible to replace 当人 with something like 当のあいつ if you have enough time, but doing so on the fly in conversation is not easy.

In reality, since most adults have encountered similar situations many times, they typically won't fuss over such questionable yet hard-to-avoid usages. But those who enjoy playing with words or are nitpicky might say "it's not a person!", like you just did. In casual writing, a few people even tentatively coin words such as 本犬, 善猫 and ロボ生 playfully, just as English speakers may playfully use terms like "chairdog" and "catsonality".

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    "Purrsonality" works too. 😄 Feb 22 at 5:13
  • I personally can't think of a scenario where 善人 is used for an animal and accepted naturally. 人がいい might be more likely.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 22 at 9:59
  • @aguijonazo Even in fiction? I wouldn't feel much discomfort if someone described the Beast from Beauty and the Beast as a 善人.
    – naruto
    Feb 22 at 10:19
  • I don't know the story but that "beast" seems to be already personified to a great degree... I might say あの犬は人がいい but would never say あの犬は善人だ. And I doubt the OP would have found 当人 as strange if it referred to Donald Duck...
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 22 at 10:30
  • @aguijonazo Of course the level of acceptance will vary greatly depending on the word used, the animal, and the level of personification. For a real pet, perhaps 本人, 人相 and 人生 would be relatively more tolerated than 善人, 人情, 人格, etc., but I'd rather not go into individual cases...
    – naruto
    Feb 22 at 10:44

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