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?

  • 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.

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  • 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

I think it's a habit, rather than the rule. I didn’t know that there are manuals to regulate the use of honorific title for public figures such as sport-players and entertainers like 「記者ハンドブック 新聞用字用語集」. But actually we don’t add “さん” to celebrities in all kinds of fields, not only sports and entertainment, but also politics, literature, business, and so on.

When we talk about famous celebrities like 長嶋茂雄、王貞治、美空ひばり、川端康成、村上春樹、 孫正義、and 田中角栄、we don’t add “さん – Mr. Ms”, regardless their reputation and high status as an enlisted player in the Hall of Fame, national heroine of singer, Nobel Prize winner, Forb’s 500 enlisted businessman and famous politician. We call this practice "呼び捨て" meaning to call one's name without 敬称 - honorific addressing. But this is permitted in informal statement.

I remember TV media once called baseball players and some other sport game players by suffixing さん to their family name, like 清原さん during the sport news time at a period a couple of decades ago. But they stopped doing so because it sounds so superficial, awkward and odd to audience.

In a formal statement, we use "氏" like 安倍氏、孫氏、高橋氏, or the titles of personalities for examples, 安倍総理、孫社長、高橋監督、not 安倍さん、孫さん、高橋さん.

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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.

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  • 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

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