The general rule of thumb is that you should be humble about yourself and anything related to you while being respectful of whoever you are talking to and anything related to them.
So when talking about your father you use 父 (ちち) to show you are humble about your family. When talking to someone else about their father you use お父さん (おとうさん) to show you respect their family. And finally when talking to your father you use お父さん (おとうさん) because parents deserve respect from their children.
Of course, the fun really starts when you wind up talking about your father to someone else while your father is listening. Do you go humble to not sound like you’re boasting about your family or go respectful because he’s right there?
Also, happy Father’s Day. Not that this strip was originally published on Father’s Day or anything. But odds are good at some point in the future someone will read this comic on Father’s Day.
父 = ちち = father (humble)
お父さん = おとうさん = father (respectful)
Honor Thy Father
Yellow: I bet the 日本語 word for father has weird rules just like the word for mother.
Blue: That’s right!
Blue: You use 父 (ちち) when talking about your father but use お父さん (おとうさん) when talking to your father or about someone else s father.
Blue: It has to do with honor, humility and tradition.
Yellow: I have heard the Japanese are big on honor…
Yellow: Wait, if I use the wrong word for father will I be expected to commit ritual suicide out of shame?
Blue: They don’t do that anymore.
Blue: And when they did it was usually for war crimes, not grammar mistakes.