If you've ever suspected that Japanese hierarchical language (keigo, 敬語) might have been invented by sadists, now you're going to get your proof. So before you read on, make sure you wear a samurai armor, or at least its modern reincarnation — a salaryman suit.
When you read Reajer book 21, Eight Fools, you'll see the non-jōyō character 鞭 in one of the Buddhist parables that make up the text. This character is a standalone word in Japanese — むち, which means "whip". In this particular story it is used creatively as a counter word for lashes (yes, there are a few accomplished sadists there too).
You'd think that this pretty much sums up the usefulness of this kanji, since a whip is a rather uncommon thing to talk about in modern life. But surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, Japanese has embraced 鞭 in more than just its literal sense.
The character is also used in the compound 鞭撻, which has two meanings. The literal meaning is "whipping", "lashing", and the figurative meaning is "encouragement", "spurring", with the nuance of giving strict, relentless feedback and criticism in order to bring about constant self-improvement.
This severe-ish word has been incorporated into a certain keigo set phrase, which is probably the most common context where you'll see 鞭 in contemporary Japanese. The phrase goes:
This very formal phrase is used by subordinates or persons of lower status to their superiors. It subtly conveys a humble admission of the speaker's inadequacy, which takes the overt form of asking for continued help with improving his skills.
It can be translated as something like "I would appreciate having your continued guidance and encouragement". Or, to put it less diplomatically, "I know you're the boss, so I might as well beg to be routinely humiliated by your harsh, domineering, bordering-on-harassment management style".
Of course, not all settings where this formula is used are quite as BDSM-like as this last interpretation. But the sense of humility and looking up to others for social approval is always present. That's what keigo is about, after all: giving yourself a good preemptive public lashing, so that your superiors will feel less inclined to do it to you.
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