One of the distinguishing things about the Japanese language is how there are many different ways to say the same thing while varying the level of politeness. For example, the below words all mean “to eat” in increasing levels of politeness.
- 食う (kuu)
- 食べる (taberu)
- 召し上げる (meshiageru)
Besides the many different verbs, there is also endings which can be applied to any verb, like the frequently used polite desu/masu form (i.e. 食べます (tabemasu) )
At first this stuff can be a little overwhelming, but after you study it for awhile you start to get the hang of things.
However, once in awhile something comes along and just blows you away with a new way to use or combine polite and/or respectful forms.
The other day, I was readying through the illustrated storybook for the Ghibli movie “The Cat Returns” (猫の恩返し) which is related to the film “Whisper of the Heart”. There I stumbled across the word “あらせられます” (araseraremasu) which I just skimmed over the first time, but then when I went through the book a second time, I realized I really had no idea what this word meant.
Actually, that is not entirely true; I felt that the word didn’t necessarily have a deep meaning, but it did express “politeness” somehow (this turned out to be for the most part true).
Looking at the Japanese dictionary for the word あらせられる reveals this:
My loose translation of this:
[Compound word] (Created from the mizenkei form of the verb “aru” plus the respectful auxiliary verbs “seru” and “rareru”).
Here, the verb “aru” in question simply means “to have”, as in “お金がある” (okane ga aru, “I have money”).
Let’s build this word up step by step:
- ある (aru) [dictionary form]
- あらせる (araseru) [+ respectful auxiliary verb]
- あらせられる (araserareru) [+ another respectful auxiliary verb]
- あらせられます (araseraremasu) [ + desu/masu polite ending]
If you aren’t completely following this, don’t worry too much, as I’ve actually seen a post where (what was apparently) a Japanese person was asking what this means. In that post you can see the below description:
(my loose translation)
Is this not an expression that is used by a person of lower class when introducing someone of a higher class in order to express awe?
This totally fits with the context where I saw the word used, when the Character Natori (ナトリ) was talking about the Cat King’s son.
While it semantically means “aru” (to have), it contains three different forms of politeness/respect in a single word. It can also be used in the form:
- であらせられます (de araseraremasu) ~= である (de aru) ~= です (desu)
Not necessarily the most useful phrase to know, but I thought it was an interesting example of Japanese usage of polite forms.
And it’s also great practice if you are still learning to pronounce your “Rs” (らりるれろ) in Japanese (笑）