December 6th, 2013

yoshitoshi: yorimasa

(no subject)

Spent thirty minutes in a fruitless google trying to discover when the desu-masu verb form ending began in spoken Japanese. Then spent another thirty minutes reading a fascinating if frustrating text version of An Historical Grammar of Japanese. (Fascinating because it's the classical stuff I learned twenty-five years ago and never got straight even then; frustrating because text versions don't reproduce kanji.) If Edo yakuza speech in Mito Komon is at all historically accurate, which one doubts, then -masu starts pretty early on. Maybe by Bakumatsu it might be as it is today.

But I *still* don't think, Mr Gibson, that one would effect an introduction in the 1850s in exactly the same language one would use a hundred and fifty years later. It feels nowhere near polite enough, though I'm damned if I know what you'd say instead. That super-polite level that I only heard now and again, from older women talking about CEOs, maybe. Or maybe it's a level that disappeared with the war and I've never heard it at all.