The opposite of polite… rude? Not really.

As most of you know, Japanese has a separate way of speaking to show politeness. This way of speaking is called 「敬語」 as a whole and is split into two levels: 1) Polite – 丁寧語, and 2) Honorific/Humble – 尊敬語/謙譲語. However, I’ve never really seen a neat term to describe the non-polite way of speaking in English or Japanese. Some might think that the opposite of polite is rude but the level I’m looking for is between the two. Slang is a little different too. What I’m referring to is a neutral way of speaking with equals. I’ve usually just called it “casual” or “dictionary form”. However, 「普通の話し方」 is rather unwieldy and 「辞書形」 is a term for conjugation, not a politeness level. I’m not aware of any formal term in Japanese which is a pain when making Japanese lessons so I looked up 「丁寧語の反対」 in Google and found my exact question on Yahoo!知恵袋. Say what you want about Yahoo and it’s past blunders with Microsoft but Yahoo Answers is really cool and turns up useful answers all the time.

I’ve decided to use the term 「タメ口」 based on this rather confident answer.


Any native speakers have any reservations with that term? Here’s a list of terms I tried to sort in order of politeness. Any additions, suggestions, or corrections appreciated.


By the way, I hope to use a screen sharing app during my lessons to show how to do this type of research using Japanese and the internet on your own.

13 thoughts on “The opposite of polite… rude? Not really.

  1. So is that read “tameguchi” or what? I’ve always used 普通語 and ため語 myself, based on what I heard other Japanese people say. I hear the former much more often than the latter though.

  2. I was wondering it once too.
    And my friend told me it is called rather as you said…
    before I was writting it as 普通語. But she said it is not correct Japanese.

  3. I actually looked this up once before and found タメ語 「ためご」listed as “casual language” in jim breen’s dictionary web dictionary so perhaps check that one out too ^^

  4. Yup, I’ve known about ため口、though I see it used more as タメ口. No real difference. One thing though is that this word is found more in Kansai areas. Funnily enough I guess タメ口 is a rather タメ口 word itself.

  5. Katakana does seem to be more common. I didn’t really pay attention and just used the default conversion. I’ll fix it now, thanks!

  6. Hey,

    I’ve always said タメ口, but have had a few experiences where older Japanese people didn’t know what that meant.

    On a slightly different tack, since I noticed that you’re doing more writing practice, 口語 is a good word that I loosely associate with these concepts. It’s not necessarily impolite, but I get called out for using to much 口語 in my writing.

    It looks like 文語 is used today to mean the opposite of 口語, even though the original denotation was narrower.

    Thanks for the post!

  7. I asked my Japanese tutor this question once and she said, after hesitation, タメ語. Though, she said that in itself was an informal word used casually. The example she gave me was, after you meet someone new and find out they are the same age as you, you might then say, タメ語にしよう.

    Combined with the kanji reading another person posted above, possibly it literally means language with someone the same social status as you. So it might not be appropriate to use in all contexts.

    If it’s difficult to find, possibly there isn’t a general term and various things are used in different contexts. For example, in the wikipedia article on 敬語 there is a table listing the different forms of verbs, the column header for the casual form – where you expect to find the term – is just labelled 一般.

    Anyway, yeah, asking a Japanese person is probably better than my speculation.

  8. Hi, 「タメ語」or「ため口」is a suitable term for what you describe, and is used and heard on a frequent basis. Particularly by the younger generation. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard it used by anyone over the age of 30 now that I come to think of it.

    People here in Nagoya seem to think of it as 方言, but I couldn’t say for sure.

  9. I have always called it インフォマルな日本語 when referring to using a casual “short” or “dictionary” form.

  10. What about くだけたしゃべり方? A bit long, but I can’t think of anything else…

  11. Applied linguistic research into 敬語 has called it 普通語 too! (Just had to throw that in 😉 )

    Source: Ikeda, K. (2009). Advanced learners’ honorific styles in emails and telephone calls. In N. Taguchi (Ed.), Pragmatic competence (pp. 69 – 100). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Comments are closed.