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I don't know Japanese but from watching anime I remember the word (?) "taisan". I am also not a native English speaker so I'm not sure if I've correctly written how the word sounds. Google translate gave me this "退散" which seems to sound right.

So, anyway, I was thinking if that word sounds like "taisan" how would a Japanese person differentiate between it and calling a human, named "Tai", "mister", i.e. "tai-san"?

3 Answers 3

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how would a Japanese person differentiate between it and calling a human, named "Tai", "mister", i.e. "tai-san"?

These are different in pitch accent.

退散 is pronounced [たいさん]{LHHH} and たいさん as a name and an honorific suffix (eg 田井さん = Mr/Ms Tai), [たいさん]{HLLL}.

{{pad}} Similar examples:
解散 [かいさん]{LHHH} ・ 甲斐さん [かいさん]{HLLL}
研鑽 [けんさん]{LHHH} ・ 健さん [けんさん]{HLLL}
減産 [げんさん]{LHHH} ・ 玄さん [げんさん]{HLLL}
閑散/換算 [かんさん]{LHHH} ・ 菅さん [かんさん]{HLLL}
拡散/核酸 [かくさん]{LHHH} ・ 格さん [かくさん]{HLLL}
計算 [けいさん]{LHHH} ・ 圭さん [けいさん]{HLLL}
晩餐 [ばんさん]{LHHH} ・ 伴さん [ばんさん]{HLLL}
量産 [りょうさん]{LLHHH} ・ 両さん [りょうさん]{HHLLL}
倒産 [とうさん]{LHHH} ・ 父さん [とうさん]{HLLL} ← father
増産 [ぞうさん]{LHHH} ・ 象さん [ぞうさん]{HLLL} ← elephant

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  • Pitch is also influenced a lot by dialect, you can go to certain parts in Japan and a completely flipped pitch even if the wording is the same.
    – Starfox
    Jun 23, 2020 at 4:07
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As is the case with a lot of Japanese, contextual clues matter. In this case, what you will find is that the context surrounding the situation is especially important.

In this case, 退散 is actually a verb (when followed by suru). So any use of the word taisan in relation to an action is certainly referring to this use.

タイさん when used as a name is a noun. I don't know that I have ever heard of any Japanese person with the name Tai or Ty, but you do see that fairly commonly in English (nickname for Tyler). In writing, you'll see this written as I have here. I feel it's safe to say that when you see taisan used as a noun, it will be pretty clear as well.

As is the case with a lot of Japanese, context is a major portion of understanding what's going on.

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It 's like I was surprised to hear British English speaker said "Going to the John" and he went to the bathroom for the first time (i.e. he did not go to see the person called "John").

Probably the closing word "退散{たいさん}" tends to be more "clear-cut" than calling person's name たいさん which could be more elongated sound so that たいさん could hear if they are far away to the speaker(ex echo from the mountain).

Is it difficult to distinguish "calling person's name" and "closing word" in your anime? I hope there is some strategy to distinguish homophone in your native tongue.

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    "going for John" should be "going to the John" :-) Jun 13, 2020 at 13:22
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    @user3856370 Thanks for that! Drinking some pints at pub always makes me ungrammatical and memory-less, but I still have been remembering some of the UK things. Jun 13, 2020 at 13:35

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