Why the difference between Buddhist temples, 寺, and Shinto shrines, 神社? (The latter does not take ご神社, お神社 or 御神社.)

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    – Chocolate
    Jan 31 '19 at 17:01
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    A lot of the uses for お and ご are idiomatic. E.g you say お電話, お返事, despite them being words of Chinese origin. In お茶 and お金, the お has become part of the word and it's lost most of its meaning of politeness. It's actually a bit strange just to say てら rather than おてら, so the お is losing its politeness here as well. This is a common phenomenon. おみこし and おみくじ, for example, have お as a prefix, despite the み already being a polite prefix. Over time, the み lost it's sense of politeness, so people added an お. So you can't always apply logic to which words take お (or ご) and which don't. Jan 31 '19 at 18:44

Apples to apples, the on-yomi equivalent to 寺{てら} would be 寺院{じいん}. It would be just as unusual to see ご寺院 as ご神社. I think by adding ご, it almost sounds like the 寺院 or 神社 belongs to the person you are addressing, and since neither one is likely to belong to a single person, the construction sounds unnatural.

On the other hand the kun-yomi equivalent of 神社 would be 社{やしろ}. It wouldn't be strange to refer to this as お社, it's just that the word 社 itself is not as common as 神社. I think お doesn't carry the same implication as ご, namely that the thing marked belongs to the person you are addressing.

Common: お寺、寺院、神社

Sounds strange: ご寺院、ご神社

Not strange, but less common: お社

  • Yeah, my feeling is that it's grammatically OK to say ご神社、but the only circumstance where it would make sense would be if you were humbly addressing someone (or maybe a company) of higher status than yourself who privately owned their own shrine. I don't think that comes up very often.
    – sazarando
    Jan 31 '19 at 22:43

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