Japanese speakers will see this and recognize it as somewhere between 'big brother' and 'demon'. This little word, uttered by our two-year old, has been our collective family mystery for the last few weeks. Erica is articulate and has an impressive vocabulary (of course!) but she is also, of course, only just gone two, so most of what she says is incomprehensible babble. Including this little gem.
She has no big brothers, so it can't be that. And when she talks about real 'oni' demons, she adds 'kowai' or 'scary' and hides behind someone. Then I thought it might be Jiichan, if Aunty Toyoko called him o-niichan (big brother), but she doesn't, she calls him 'shatcho' (boss). It wouldn't be such a mystery if she didn't use it ALL the time!
Then finally the penny dropped.
I went upstairs to get her one night when she was crying, and when I entered the room I clearly heard her say 'I neeed you!'. Or, 'aniiju'.
She's saying 'I need some'. Now that's we've clicked, we've noticed that she says it when she's hungry, or wants something.
It's all English, and I was just imagining that she was speaking Japanese. And to think, I get annoyed at strange baachans who assume she's speaking English because they can't understand her babble. Oops.
Ms. Onichan, mystery solved.
Her sisters are known as Ms. 'wait!' and Ms. 'That's What I Thought'. (Lena and Amy respectively)