In Japanese, “onegaishimasu” literally means “honorable-favor-will-do”. A better translation may be: “You are about to do me a great favor and I want to thank you ahead of time.” I love the word because there is no real short, succinct, standard equivalent of politeness and humility in English for the situations where onegaishimasu is used. Consider these situations for instance:
- Someone offers to help you edit your paper for you, as you gratefully hand them the paper, in Japanese, you say, “Onegaishimasu”. What would you say in English? “Here, thanks.”
- You are at a post office and you hand the clerk a package to be weighed, stamped and sent on its way. As you had it, in Japanese you say, “Onegaishimasu”. What would you say in English? “Please”? (yawn)
Well, I live in the USA now and miss the word, but I do use it in one situation — right before leaving my home on a long trip. Just before driving off in my car, I will put my hands together in gassho and say, “Onegaishimasu”. I could imagine a Shinto animist saying this to call forth helpful spirits for the favor of protection — sort of a good luck prayer. But for me, in my head, I am thanking ahead of time those who will be on my path and myself for our efforts to make the trip safe. It is a reminder to me to be aware, careful and grateful.
Questions to readers: So, am I being superstitious in a stupid way and just rationalizing it? Share thought you have before long trips that verge on being superstitious — or religious.
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