Can the term be お姉さんbe used to address female strangers politely?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Earthliŋ Mar 19 '17 at 19:00

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  • Can you double-check it's おねいさん but not おねえさん? If it's actually おねいさん, can you explain where you saw it? The context do matter here. – naruto Mar 19 '17 at 17:17
  • @naruto, I seem to remember hearing the word spoken in a non family situation. I wonder if it can be used in a work environment. Your previous answers have been very helpful to me. – JACK Mar 19 '17 at 17:39
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    Please clarify your question. If your question is answered by a link to the entry of a basic dictionary, it might be better left closed. I think it is fair to expect you to look in a basic dictionary before you post a question about the meaning of a word. – Earthliŋ Mar 19 '17 at 19:06
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    We also have a "typo" close reason. If you couldn't find what you're looking for because of a typo, then this question will also remain closed. If you have a question beyond this (and from the comments it sounds like you do), please take a minute to edit and improve your question. You can also get rid of the typo. – Earthliŋ Mar 19 '17 at 19:47

It is customary in Japan to address people unknown to you by the respectful,term for the position they would appear to hold in their own family - おじいさん , "grandad", for an elderly man, おばあさん, "granny", for an elderly woman, おくさん, "married woman" for a woman who would appear to be, say, over thirty-five. Not all relationship terms are used like this: おかあさん , "mother", and おとうさん, "father", for example. Also, the age, sex, etc of the speaker affects usage: a young woman might address a middle-aged man as おじさん , "uncle", but I don't think a male of any age would. (I remember the shock I felt the first time a young woman addressed me as おじさん.) おねえさん , "older sister", can be used to address a woman in late teens to early twenties. It is, for example, (or used to be)used to attract the attention of wait-staff in a cafe or restaurant. But all these need to be used with caution. To attract the attention of a young woman who, for example, has dropped something in the street in front of you, it's probably best to use おじょうさん, a respectful word for daughter or young woman. Take care. You can sound very presumptuous if you get it wrong.

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    I have also heard (in anime mind you) the use of お姉(さん/ちゃん) and お兄(さん/ちゃん) both used in self-reference by 若者 when talking to young children (i.e. 「let big bro take care of this」という感じ) and also vocatively (sometimes condescendingly) when talking to young men or women. There are probably a whole lot of nuances that I am missing, but that is what I know. Somewhat unrelated, but I have seen あにき・あねご used both in looking-up-to-someone relations and also in yakuza context. – archaephyrryx May 17 '17 at 23:05
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    Good point, @archaephyrryx. When speaking to children it is customary, in order to teach them keigo, to refer to adults, including oneself, by the appropriated respectful term that the child needs to learn to use. For the same reason, women use boku for "you" when talking to small boys so that they learn to use it of themselves. – Graham Healey May 19 '17 at 14:06

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