In this 4コマ漫画{まんが}, a four panel comic, a young attractive woman walks through a station ticket gate, but there's something wrong with her ticket. The station attendant calls after her, first by calling out お客{きゃく}さん!, which is "customer" or "passenger", a usual way for a staff to refer to a patron. She does not respond. So then he calls out おネエさん!, which is something like "miss" or "young lady". She still does not respond. He calls out おネエさま!, which is again "miss" or "young lady" or something like that, just with the politeness upped a little. She does not respond.

Finally, he calls out お嬢{じょう}さま!. Which, as far as I've understood its usage, is still just a way of saying "young woman" or "daughter". My dictionary also says it means "unmarried woman".

My feeling is that this comic isn't wildly hysterical in any case, but there's some kind of nuance to the fact that she only responds to お嬢{じょう}さま! that is supposed to be kind of amusing. But to my non-native Japanese level of comprehension, it's just different ways of referring to a young woman, so I'm not seeing the extra connotations that support the humour.

What is it about her responding only to お嬢{じょう}さま! that is in any way noteworthy? Is the fact that the man beside her is more distant from her in the last panel relevant (in that he is clearly not her husband)?

Lastly, I thought おネエさん! would be too casual for a station attendant. Wouldn't it translate to something like "hey, babe"?

フジ三太郎 comic

  • 3
    the lady has standards !
    – oldergod
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 6:49

4 Answers 4


About the nuance of お嬢さま.

The difference is visual. Someone described as お嬢様, besides being a young unmarried female, has also cultivated (or been raised to have) a sense of upper-class refinement, most immediately evident through her appearance and attitude. Perhaps in between Scarlett O'Hara and Holly Golightly?

Looking closely at that フジ三太郎 comic strip, there's a suggestion of erectness in the straight shoulders; of an elegant gate, in the slight to-and-fro swish of the skirt; of luxury, in the chicness of the clothes, particularly the chain-link strap of the purse; and in the long straight hair and slight makeup, of a self-awareness of girlish attractiveness. It takes the ticket attendant a moment to recognize how these signs distinguish her from a woman who just happens to be young, i.e., an おねえさん.

Perhaps it's proof of this perception of mine that, until I looked it up just now on WWWJDIC, I had always thought 嬢 meant "princess".

Thanks for the question and introducing me to a new comic strip.

  • あ~確かに「お嬢さん」でなく「お嬢さま」って言うと、お金持ちのお嬢さんみたいな感じですね
    – user1016
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 7:45
  • 1
    @Chocolate, so, does that mean you think this is a more likely interpretation than what you had in your answer? That it's more about the girl wanting to be "high class" than "young"?
    – Questioner
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 9:19

It's from サトウサンペイ's フジ三太郎 in 朝日新聞, the man who looks back is its main character フジ三太郎, so he has to appear somewhere in the strip every day (I guess). I think 「お客さん!」>「おねえさん!」>「お嬢さん!」(in three panels) could have worked too.

I think it's just お嬢さん/お嬢さま sounds younger than おねえさん/おねえさま. The lady unconsciously ignores おねえさん and おねえさま because she thinks she's too young to be called that way. We readers, especially male readers, feel like "Ah I know how this station employee feels" "This is what women are" "They always feel younger than they really are" etc.

I thought おネエさん! would be too casual for a station attendant.

I agree. I don't expect them to call me おねえさん either. At least, it wouldn't sound polite.

Wouldn't it translate to something like "hey, babe"?

Not necessarily. It depends on the situation and how you say it.


I think the strip is about the moral cruelty of Japanese life.

The dutiful young man discovered something – a lost ticket maybe – which might be to the disadvantage of his customer, and calls out to her. Instead of heeding his apparently audible call (the man to the left of the woman did hear it after all), the woman decides that calling conventions are more important than fact matters to her. She remains stubborn during 3 calls while the young man breaks out into sweat, painfully caught between his social duties of serving the customer and remaining at his assigned position.

While this comic strip seems to tell us that we should use proper politeness right away and women should not let themselves be addressed in a debasing kind of way, it is my personal perception that the strip mocks all the servile hands that smoothen our daily life. Women long had a low social standing in society, but once they become rich and beautiful they can put the lowest behind them and treat them like dirt – the new old kind of justice.

Therefore there is no joke. It is all very depressing.


(Note: the impressions below come from the various manga I've read, which might or might not reflect the realities of life in Japan. But then, the subject is a manga too...)

お嬢さん or (お嬢ちゃん) is indeed what you would call a small girl, e.g. if you don't know her name but need to call her somehow (かわいいお嬢ちゃんですね!). It has a nuance of "little princess".

However, お嬢さま is something different. It implies an upper-class lady from a rich family. In fact, I wouldn't expect one to ride subway, she probably has a car with a driver, and possibly a butler at her huge mansion too. Such ladies tend to use highly polite or old-fashioned speech (わたくし、~ですわ、~ですの etc.) and may have gaps in "commoner's" knowledge such as using ticket gates ^_^.

Some examples from anime/manga/etc.:

  • Nagi Sanzenin from Hayate the Combat Butler
  • secondary characters from Ouran High School Host Club
  • Tomoyo Daidouji from Cardcaptor Sakura (when she grows up...)

See TV Tropes for more.

Niconico article seems to describe the term pretty well too.

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