A Japanese friend of mine asked me if this existed in English. For example, in Japanese, when referring to the company of your client, you say onsha (御社) when speaking, and use kisha (貴社) when writing.

Does the same kind of thing happen in English? I know it's very common to abbreviate words in speech but I can't think of a situation in which there would be a completely different word used for speaking.

  • 1
    It happens in casual speech, but for a given level of formality there's little difference, aside from the specific use of contractions, abbreviations, etc, and the simple tendency in speech to omit sounds.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 5, 2019 at 23:56
  • This occurs quite often when inviting people to a party. The formal written invitation will often read “and guest”, but this would almost always be spoken as “your wife”, “your husband” or something more specific, unless the host was truly at a loss for words.
    – user205876
    Sep 6, 2019 at 6:05
  • I think this is something a bit different to what you guys are imagining. In Chinese they use the word Ni for you but in a formal writing or letter you would use Nin a more respectful form. In earlier years they would also have spoken like this to a high ranking person although I have not heard it used in a long time. We used to have a similar respectful attitude in the UK, the boss would have always been referred to as "Mr" Ashley etc but we have no words that would have been changed.
    – Brad
    Sep 6, 2019 at 7:05
  • 1
    This is a rather common phenomenon in (all or most of) the Oriental languages: a "bookish" (not "formal") version and a "conversational" (not informal) version, each with distinct words.
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2019 at 10:22
  • 1
    There are many words that often appear in writing but appear infrequently in spoken English, and vice versa. There is also the past perfect tense that is far more common in written than spoken English. A lot of this is down to levels of formality, a need for clarity and the lack of tone and expression in writing. However, this is not the same phenomenon as in Japanese in which it appears that a one of a pair of exact synonyms is demanded by the medium.
    – Greybeard
    Jan 18, 2023 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


when referring to the company of your client, you say onsha (御社) when speaking, and use kisha (貴社) when writing. Does the same kind of thing happen in English?

If the same level of register and formality is used in a passage that is spoken or written, the main verbs and nouns will remain the same.

Spoken English differs from written English - as in other languages - in that spoken English is able to be enhanced by tone, facial expression, gestures, accent, and volume, etc. - something that written English cannot do without descriptive passages.


I don't know if it's analogous because I don't speak Japanese, but how about the fact that when writing, we apply the honorific "Mrs." before a married woman's name to address her, which is actually an abbreviation of the word "mistress," but when speaking to her, we address her using the honorific "Missus"?

Another example might be dates. We rarely say dates aloud how we right them, not even when we're reading. If the date is written as "September 5, 2019" or "9/5/19," which are the two standard ways of writing dates in the US, I never speak that as "September five, two-thousand nineteen" or "nine slash five slash nineteen," instead, I invariably read it aloud as "September fifth, two thousand nineteen."

Even numbers themselves use written characters when they appear as numeral that do not jibe with any phonetic representation of what they convey. Now, we're so used to that, we see past it, but other languages at the very least use letters to represent their numbers, like Hebrew, the number one being the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the number two being the second letter, and so forth. In English, though, there's no association at all, the symbols for numbers (i.e., numerals) being completely arbitrary of independent of our spoken language.


The abbreviation viz. for the Latin videlicet appears in formal writing with the meaning of namely and when read aloud is often replaced by "namely" or "that is."



videlicet M-W

videlicet adverb

that is to say : NAMELY —abbreviation viz M-W

In contradistinction to i.e. and e.g., viz. is used to indicate a detailed description of something stated before, and when it precedes a list of group members, it implies (near) completeness.

  • Viz. is usually read aloud as "that is", "namely", or "to wit",[6] but is sometimes pronounced as it is spelled, viz.: /ˈvɪz/.
  • Videlicet is pronounced /vɪˈdɛlɪsɛt/ or /wɪˈdeɪlɪkɛt/ in English-speaking countries Wikipedia

namely, videlicet (abbreviated viz., which is to be read aoud as "namely""). Paul Hugon; Morrow's Word-Finder (1927)

Abbreviation for (latin) videlicet — namely (and when read aloud spoken as namely) from: The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Marcus Rose; Everything Congress Knows About the Constitution (2012)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.