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Is there a Japanese equivalent to English's 'Can I go to the bathroom' vs. 'May I go to the bathroom'? You know, a disagreement over whether to use a phrase that feels correct(and I'd argue is correct) vs. a phrase that is more, you know, "Politically Correct" in a way.

closed as too broad by naruto, macraf, Blavius, broccoli forest, user3856370 May 28 '17 at 12:20

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    日本語の誤用とか、日本語の乱れ・「ゆらぎ」とか、例えば「ら抜き言葉」みたいな話ですかね? – Chocolate May 24 '17 at 5:32
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    It goes without saying that all languages have tons of "nonstandard", "politically incorrect", "debatable" or "disputed" expressions which are actually used by some (so the short answer is "yes"). But the list is too large and this question is too unspecific. You may want to buy a book like this. – naruto May 24 '17 at 6:12
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There is an expression that has annoyed me for these past several years.

That is an expression 「これでよろしかったでしょうか」 which means "Was this all right (for you)?" and is often said to me as a customer by a salesclerk in a store or a shop at a checkout counter.
It was the time of the payment in a supermarket several years ago that I heard it for the first time. Because I never talked with the salesclerk before then in the supermarket, I felt a sense of incongruity when I was asked by the phrase as 「これでよろしかったですか?」 or "Was this all right?" in a past tense. 「これでよろしいですか?」 or "Is this all right?" was the phrase I expected instead.

In the case when you should logically use the present tense in English, I know well that the past tense like "I would ..." is usually used to soften a phrase, but I didn't think we used Japanese in that way.

After the first experience, it seems that I would hear the expression more and more often. I continue feeling the similar sense of incongruity up to the present, but the expression seems to be becoming recognized to soften the phrase in the same way as English.

Tirous, was this all right?


Probably apart from the questioner's topic I found some examples of seemingly or logically contradictory Japanese expressions, here, here and here, which are like:

  • 反則{はんそく}勝{が}ち 【反則{はんそく}負{ま}けの対戦者{たいせんしゃ}?】
  • 立派{りっぱ}な犯罪{はんざい} 【どんな犯罪{はんざい}ですか?】  
  • 体{からだ}をお厭{いと}いください 【「厭{いと}う」は本来{ほんらい}、嫌{きら}う、いやがるの意味{いみ}】
  • 感謝{かんしゃ}の言葉{ことば}もありません 【大変{たいへん}感謝{かんしゃ}しているときに使{つか}う】
  • いい加減{かげん} 【間違{まちが}って「中途{ちゅうと}半端{はんぱ}」「無責任{むせきにん}」「手抜{てぬ}き」の意味{いみ}で使{つか}われている】
  • 適当{てきとう} 【本来{ほんらい}「適切{てきせつ}」の意味{いみ}だが、「いい加減{かげん}」の誤用{ごよう}と同{おな}じ類{たぐい}の誤用{ごよう}】
  • ウソをつけ! 【「ウソをつくな!」 Don't tell me a lie! の意味{いみ}で使{つか}われている】
  • 生{い}きている化石{かせき} 【化石{かせき}は生{い}きていない】
  • カラーワイシャツ  【colored white shirt】
  • ピンクの白衣{はくい} 【ピンク色{いろ}の看護婦{かんごふ}さんの制服{せいふく}】  
  • 情{なさ}けは人{ひと}の為{ため}ならず 【"Kindness is never lost" is misinterpreted as "Kindness never do others good".】
  • もっとも好{す}きなことの1つ 【「最{もっと}も」は最初{さいしょ}から1つしかない】
  • 炎天下{えんてんか}の下{もと} 【「下{した}の下{した}」はどこ?】
  • 全然{ぜんぜん}大丈夫{だいじょうぶ} 【「全然{ぜんぜん}駄目{だめ}」なら正{ただ}しい使{つか}い方{かた}】
  • 後{あと}で後悔{こうかい}する 【後悔{こうかい}は前{まえ}にはできない】
  • 元旦{がんたん}の朝{あさ} 【正{ただ}しくは元日{がんじつ}の朝{あさ}。「元旦{がんたん}」は「元日{がんじつ}の朝{あさ}」のこと。】
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    あの… 質問は、本来、英語で 「~してもいいですか?(許可を求める表現)」は May I~? なんですけど、実際の会話では Can I~? を使うようになっていて、それを「acceptableだ」という人と、「いや、誤用だ」という人(規範文法)がいるけど、それと同じような例は日本語にある?と聞いていると思うんですが・・・(で、そういう例は、日本語にもたくさんあるでしょう?) – Chocolate May 24 '17 at 5:56
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    Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't ワイシャツ refer to "Y-shirt" for shape rather than "white-shirt" for color? The fact that a lot of button-down (i.e. Y) shirts are white is a coincidence I think. – archaephyrryx May 25 '17 at 0:28
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    Also, for もっとも好きなことの1つ, isn't it possible to interpret こと being plural since there is no singular-plural distinction (other than reduplication and suffixes) in Japanese ("one of my favorite things")? – archaephyrryx May 25 '17 at 1:01
  • @archaephyrryx: I don't think so. There was the word ワイシャツ in Japan already in the time when there were not many variations of shirts like now. ワイシャツ is a dress shirt and we usually wear a necktie on ワイシャツ. As the color of a dress shirt was usually white, we coined a word ワイシャツ meaning white shirt in Japan for the dress shirt. It's true that we usually see an expression "Yシャツ" nowadays. Thank you for your good question! – mackygoo May 25 '17 at 1:49
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    They way I read 「後で後悔する」is more as "save your regrets for when this is over." As in, a small action led to a chaotic situation, and someone regrets having done that action, but someone else tells them that they have much bigger things to worry about right then, and that they can think about what they should have done once the situation resolves. – archaephyrryx May 25 '17 at 2:01
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A bit of an aside, this happens often when using 尊敬語, albeit in reverse -- using でございます on a phrase in 丁寧語 form structure/vocabulary doesn't always make the phrase more polite, it might actually make it less polite.

Likewise with mixing between 丁寧語 and 尊敬語: Here, the preference is to stick with what you know fully, and stick to one mode of speech. Changing the level of politeness mid conversation might leave a sour taste (for example, switching mid conversation from 丁寧語 to 尊敬語 might make the other person feel mocked, while the inverse might make the other person feel like you've lost a level of respect, which is equally degrading). Of course, the exception is at the request of the other person.

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