How did the の get in the expression 「◯◯のバカ!」? Was the expression originally longer? Is there any other example of usage other than insults?

(other example I know of: 「つよし君のエッチ!」 or anything to the same effect)

Edit: Another example by Pacerier: 「Tsunadeのばあさん」. Seeing that バカ is also a noun, that would make them similar grammatically.

Edit 2: Or maybe not. I think what I hear in old-fashioned candy stores are surnames, not first names, e.g. 高橋のばあさん, whereas it would mean "the grandma of Takahashi household (whose store sells candies)". I don't know if Tsunade is a surname or not though.

I did a quick search and miraculously, one BBS that is discussing construct uses the exact same sentence 「お父さんのバカ!」: http://mentai.hanako.2ch.net/gengo/kako/981/981698334.html

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    another one: Tsunadeのばあさん
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 7:54
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    @syockit : noun + の + noun(Show to possess) 私(noun) + の + 部屋(noun) ->私の部屋 皆(noun) + の +日本語(noun) ->皆の日本語
    – ZarNge
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 8:19
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    @ZarNge: The 「Tsunadeのばあさん」 that Pacerier gave is not referring Tsunade's grandmother, but rather a way of calling "Grandmother Tsunade". I usually see it in use when calling an old woman who is not blood related, for example, an old lady selling candies at an old shop. Therefore, it does not show possession.
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 8:47
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    @ZarNge After reconsidering, I think I might be wrong (and Pacerier too), see my explanation in edited question
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 15:02
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    @rdb One might be tempted to use that meaning of の to interpret this sentence. The problem is, the 「AのB」 in my question is actually a form of 「AはBだ」. The one you've shown is of 「Aという名のB」 and is not a complete sentence. For example, you don't say 「富士の山!」to mean "Fuji, you mountain!".
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 17:20

5 Answers 5


Some people (e.g. Samuel E. Martin, John R. Bentley, Alexander Vovin) argue that this の is actually (or originally) a "defective verb", distinct from genitive の. Here's Vovin's explanation, from "A reference grammar of early Japanese prose" (2003): Defective verbs

The traditional grammar makes no mention of defective verbs, these being verbs with fewer paradigmatic forms than other verbs. There are three defective verbs in Classical Japanese, n- "to be", to "to say", and to "to be". I include below a detailed description of the existing paradigmatic forms of these defective verbs. Defective verb n- "to be"

The defective verb n- "to be" has only three paradigmatic forms: infinitive n-i, gerund n-ite, and attributive n-o. Its major function is that of a copula. Samuel E. Martin was the first scholar who proposed to treat the various forms of n- as rudimentary copula forms (Martin 1988:34). In traditional Japanese grammar they are usually treated as 接続助詞 "connective particles" (Ikeda 1975:205-218). [...] Attributive form of the defective verb n- "to be"

The function of the attributive form n-o is the same as that of its modern counterpart no in the Modern Japanese examples tomodati no gakusei "a student who is [my] friend", mei no Sumiko "Sumiko who is [my] niece". [...]

Taketori n-o okina
Taketori be-ATTR old man
old man Bamboo-Cutter (TM 29.2) [...]

Vovin argues that this is also the /no/ we see used with numbers in constructions like Shichinin no samurai ("The Seven Samurai").

I'm not convinced at this point that treating these phenomena as defective verbs solves more problems than it creates (i.e. that it isn't easier just to view them as semantic extension of the particles they resemble) -- but then, I don't have nearly as comprehensive an understanding of the details as Martin/Bentley/Vovin do. So I'm throwing this in here as something interested parties might want to read up on.

Incidentally, this analysis would be susceptible to the same counterargument as Axioplase's 犬のボビー: specifically, the objection that 犬のボビー that means "Bobby, who is a dog", but お父さんのばか means "My father is an idiot", not "The idiot, who is my father". But I think that expressions like お父さんの馬鹿 can be understood as exclamations directed at the person they describe. "You fool!" → "You fool, who art my father!" (cf "Our father, who art in Heaven"). This works even if the addressed person is not present, just as I can cry "Damn you, Mendoza!" if I discover Mendoza's evil handiwork long after Mendoza has fled town.

  • Yes, I forgot that can also be the modern liaisoned form of んを. I'm going to find out the usage of the latter in classical context.
    – syockit
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 6:53
  • minor nit even though this answer is like a decade old, but the "defective verbs" section number in vovin (2003) is typo'd here (should be and it threw me off briefly while looking for it in my own copy Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 13:34

It's very common, and is not a possessive.

I usually translate this kind of AのB as "B the A". お父さんのバカ is "father the idiot", or more naturally "that idiot father". Another example is I was given ages ago was "犬のボビー" for "Bobby the dog". I sometimes introduce myself as "フランス人のX" (where X is my real secret identity) which is again a similar construction.

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    That's an interesting take. But the problem is the role of A and B is reversed in your construct. In 「犬のボビー」, A describes B, while in 「お父さんのバカ」, B describes A. i.e. You can say "Bobby, the dog", but you don't say, "stupid, the Daddy".
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 14:14
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    Your example is an apposition, and doesn't stand on its own. If you say just 「犬のボビー」 people will be left hanging to wonder what you are about to say. That is, the clause is not "productive" i.e. it does not give a new information. It can be used as a subject i.e. adding just だ makes it a copula sentence "This is Bobby the dog.". Meanwhile, 「お父さんのバカ!」 is "productive", it is telling listener that Daddy is an idiot. It is a valid sentence; an exclamation.
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 16:21
  • @syockit: good point for your second comment. For the first, which is probably moot any way, we do say "What an idiot, this daddy", which is how I would often translate it. The English is more verbose, it nonetheless fits pretty well the pattern I tried to generalise, and it also conveys the right meaning, doesn't it?
    – Axioplase
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 1:27
  • In "Bobby the dog", we are introducing Bobby as the subject, with "the dog" as extra information, which we can safely omit. On the contrary, in 「お父さんのバカ!」, we are not introducing バカ as the subject, rather that we are talking about お父さん. That is why I don't agree putting it in the category of の's apposition usage.
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 16:30

This is not the possessive-genitive like English 's, but is the of-genitive like English of. English has a similar expression stupid of my father. Genitive case is the case that a noun can assign to a noun, and since the predicate ばか here is a(n) (adjectival) noun, genitive case is used.

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    -1: You could say "stupid ity of my father", or equivalently "my father's stupidity", but either way I would say that a possessive relationship is indeed implied - even though stupidity is an abstract concept, the English mind sees it as a possession of the father in question. This doesn't really answer anything; 's and of really work the same way in English, a few stylistic choices and idioms notwithstanding. Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 10:51
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    @Karl Knetchel It's perfectly correct to say something like "That was very stupid of my father." in English. You don't need the 'ity' in those cases.
    – phirru
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 10:57
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    Ah, that's what was meant... yes, this is some sort of idiomatic usage; the thing being described as stupid here is not the person but some implied previous action. "X-san no baka!" gets translated as "X is an idiot", though, so it doesn't seem to be the same, unless all the fansubbers are getting it consistently wrong... Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 11:06
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    @Karl Knetchel I think it's very similar in English too, though. The fansubbers probably just bring it down to the bare meaning. I see this happen in translation a lot. For example if we say "That was very stupid of my father." We are essentially saying "My father's behaviour was stupid." or "My father was stupid. (In that case)". This usage of "of", is quite common too. "That was silly of her.", "How brave of you", "How ridiculous of him to suggest such a thing." etc. However, I'm no where near an expert on grammatical issues, I'm just thinking out loud here.
    – phirru
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 11:18
  • The usage -to denote agency- is used with an adjective, not a genitive noun. I'm pretty sure the "stupid" here is used as adjective. That being said, I've realized that my example's バカ might as well have been an adjective too, especially after considering the second example, エッチ, where you can't use it by itself to refer to an agent (エッチ, as noun is, an action). Therefore, your correlation with the English expression may have hit the right mark (despite the dissimilarity in nuance; 「お父さんのバカ!」 is closer to "Daddy, you stupid!", while "That's stupid of my father" is closer to 「バカだね、お父さんは」).
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 17:02

As @syockit points out, there's a big difference between お父さんのバカ! and 犬のボビー.

お父さんのバカ! is an exclamation in itself, and cannot be used as a grammatical element in a bigger phrase. If you wanted to do that, you would have to say バカなお父さん, with な in this case, because バカ is a na-adjective.

For nouns that do not also work as na-adjectives, e.g. お父さんの無礼者!, it would turn into 無礼者のお父さん, the appositive use of の.

English also has a concept of 'appositive genitive' which resembles の's appositive usage:

  • (Something is rotten in) the state of Denmark
  • the month of May



The の in 「お父さんのバカ!」 is the genitive no-particle.

Basically the function of the genitive no-particle is to convert a noun into an adjective so that it can describe a noun.

It is useful to think of 「お父さんのバカ!」 as the long-version of 「バカ!」, for the same reason that 「赤い花!」 is the long-version of 「花!」.

We can roughly dissect the sentence 「お父さんのバカ!」 into 3 parts:

  1. noun 「お父さん」: father

  2. genitive particle 「の」 (converts the noun お父さん into an adjective to describe 「バカ」)

  3. noun 「バカ」: an idiot

And the literal translation of the sentence 「お父さんのバカ!」 is roughly:


  • Wow, if you put it that way, it sounds like "You dadditive idiot!" or "You fatheric fool!" instead. That is, to rewrite in Japanese, 「あなたがどれくらいのバカかというと、お父さんレベルというところか」
    – syockit
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 20:04
  • @syockit I can see where you are coming from, however the miscommunication is due to the fact that nouns cannot be turned into adjectives in English. Here I'm usnig "father" as an adjective. "father" as an adjective is not the same as "fatheric", the latter being "like father" instead of "father". It's like comparing the adjective "red" to the adjective "red-like".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 9:19
  • Ah then you mean using お父さん as genitive in this case adds a quality to the word バカ, making バカ refer specifically to お父さん? It's more like saying "the idiot, who/which is Dad,". Hmm, interesting idea.
    – syockit
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 21:02
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    Yes that's what I'm talking about. If we just say 「バカ!」, 「バカ」 obviously refers to the father. Saying 「お父さんのバカ!」 is the same as saying 「バカ!」, except that this time we gave a description (adjective 「お父さん」) to the noun 「バカ」 which refers to the father.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 22:31

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