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The dictionary definition of おやつ is an afternoon snack . However, that is not what I remember about its usage.

  • White-collar workers never do "おやつ"? They might use it as euphemism for briefly standing and stretching in mid-afternoon?
  • Do blue-collar workers do a real "おやつ" and rest / eat in mid-afternoon?
  • Etymologically speaking, a farmer's お弁当 was his おやつ in 大和 Japan?

The recent thread about "おかず" made me remember "おやつ". But, my memory is a little fuzzy.

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  • When you say "do おやつ", do you perhaps mean eat おやつ? I have eaten おやつ before (as far as it has been used around me, is generic for snack, not necessarily in the afternoon). Apr 20 '15 at 0:23
  • @TheWanderingCoder I'd though of おやつ as an "event". The event is to briefly stop working in mid-afternoon. Maybe walk-around the office, do so stretching, and, at the most extreme, go outside and walk-around. When I said to a co-worker "おやつしないの?" that is kind of what we did together. But, my sense is that were one native speaker to say to another native speaker "おやつしないの?", the response would be "what are you talking about??? get back to work!"
    – red shoe
    Apr 20 '15 at 15:38
  • I think my company must do everything differently. You are completely free to leave and buy snacks any time hahaha. As l'électeur said, many people (myself included) keep snacks and drinks on their desks. Apr 21 '15 at 0:23
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One thing I would need to mention is that the significance of 「おやつ」 as a custom has decreased dramatically since Edo period. Japan had largely been a two-meal-a-day nation until around the middle of Edo. There was no such thing as lunch for many people.

Naturally, you would become hungry by around 2 o'clock in the afternoon, which was called 「やつ/やつどき」 by our old system of telling time. So, you would take a break from work for a snack and tea. It was named 「おやつ」 and it was more of a necessity than leisure back then. It was, in a way, more like a tiny meal.

In our time, there is lunch and therefore 「おやつ」 is much more optional among many. (Or at least we could wait till 3 o'clock instead of 2 like we used to, thanks to lunch.)

  • White-collar workers never do "おやつ"? They might use it as euphemism for briefly standing and stretching in mid-afternoon?

Many do, but they do not do it together at a designated time. White-collar workers often keep snacks in their desk drawers and nibble on them at different times of the day.

  • Do blue-collar workers do a real "おやつ" and rest / eat in mid-afternoon?

Yes, they tend to do so together and at a designated time (usually 3:00 pm), which is the huge difference between the two collar colors.

  • Etymologically speaking, a farmer's お弁当 was his おやつ in 大和 Japan?

I do not know the real answer to this, but I suppose one could say that. Traditionally, farmers have had more food available to them than other types of workers. If the content of their おやつ had been more meal-like than that of others, that would not surprise one.

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