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Basic Japanese : How to say “I” in Japanese – Part 2 –

Date Published: Last Update:2015/02/02 Others ,

General, but not very often used “I” in Japanese

Several first-person singular pronouns for common people, only used by some.

Neutral

[Jibun]

Jibun

  • “Jibun” means “oneself”.
    Can be used by anybody according to circumstances, but I guess few common people use this as a usual pronoun for themselves.
  • Maybe male athletes often use this, especially in public.
  • Also, I have an impression soldiers use this when they speak to their superiors because of the old manga called “Nora-kuro”.
    This doesn’t seem to apply to the present “Jiei-tai” (the Japan Self-Defense Forces), considering “watashi” is used for “Oath of Service”.
  • In Kansai-dialect area including Osaka and Kyoto, this is sometimes used for “you”.

[Your own first name]

  • Mainly used by little children.
    Sometimes used with “chan” or “san”.
    ex) Hanako-san
  • Some girls / women call themselves with their own first name, perhaps to make them look lovely as small children.
    If they really look pretty, they may be accepted especially by men, but likely avoided by women.

[Ora]

Ora

  • Sounds very “country-person” (especially from north-east areas of Japan) – simple, honest, open-minded and gentle, or just an unsophisticated person.
    Nobody would assume you are in the upper-class if you use this.
  • Its pronunciation is similar to a Spanish word “hola”.
    Accent “O”.
  • More for male than female, but some “country-girl” may use this.
  • Character using “ora”:
    (In Katakana) Songokuu and Chi-chi from “Dragon Ball”
    Shin-chan from “Crayon Shin-chan”
Mister Karl

- Mr. Karl -
Very "ora" impression character.

For male

[Oira]

Oira

  • Very “country-boy”, or coming from a rather poor family.
  • Similar to “ora”, but I feel it’s more for children.
  • Character using “oira”:
    (In Hiragana) “Dororo” from “Dororo” by Osamu Tezuka

For female

[Atakushi]

Atakushi

  • Derived from “watakushi”, but more casual than “watakushi”.
  • Not commonly used.
    I’ve never met anybody using this.
  • Sounds quite posh and arrogant, an “overnight millionaire” impression to me.
  • In Tokyo, this may be used by men.
    In this case, it’s a general and respectful pronoun.
  • Character using “atakushi”:
    (In Katakana) Michiru from “Kekkaishi”

[Atai]

Atai

  • Derived from “atashi”, but not for adults and this sounds much more flippant except for little girls (who could have got a difficulty to pronounce “shi”).
  • Probably more often used in fictional world, although this is a little outdated.
    I’ve never met someone using this, however I frequently saw young (bad) girls using this in many manga of 80’s.
  • Can be used by men in Kagoshima prefecture as a polite pronoun.

Locally used

Here are the words used in limited areas in Japan, but still widely perceived.

Neutral

[Wai / Wate]

Wai

- "Wai" and "Wate" -
Top : "Wai"
Bottom : "Wate"

  • Often heard in Kansai-dialect area.
  • “Wai”, pronunciation is similar to “Y”, is perhaps more for middle-aged men.
  • “Wate” is derived from “watai”, the casual form of “watashi”.

[Oi / Oidon]

Oi

- "Oi" and "Oidon" -
Top : "Oi"
Bottom : "Oidon"

    • Mainly used in Kyushu area.
      I assume many people have got the impression that Takamori Saigou, a very famous samurai from Kagoshima whose statue in Tokyo, called himself with “oidon”.
      However, according to some Kagoshima-dialect websites, “oidon” used as singular seems to be quite rare; “Oi” is singular but “oidon” is plural.
    • “Oidon” is usually written in “Hiragana”.
      Never seen Katakana version myself.
    • There is a manga entitled “Otoko-oidon” (lit. “The man oidon” by Reiji Matsumoto.
      The main character “Ooyama”, who comes from Kyushu area, uses “oidon”.
Takamori Saigou

- Statue of "Takamori Saigou" with his dog in Ueno -
Photo from Photo AC

For female

[Uchi]

Uchi

  • Literally, “uchi” means “inside” or casually “home”.
  • A common pronoun for female from Kansai-dialect area.
  • In genitive case, “uchi” is used by anybody, anywhere in Japan.
    ex) “My dog” can be frequently referred as “uchi no inu” (“Inu” means dog, and “no” in this sentence is showing possession like “‘s” in English.
    In this case, accent on “chi”, while “u” is pronounced stronger when the word is used as the subject.
  • Character using “uchi”:
    (In Hiragana) Lum from “Urusei Yatsura”

– Tips –
The word “uchi” for home / house often shortened to “chi” in colloquial Japanese, especially when referring to somebody’s house.
If you use “watashi” for I and “uchi” for home, “my home” can be “watashi no uchi” or “watashi n’ chi”.
However, when using “uchi” both “I” and “home”, it should be “uchi n’ chi” only, never “uchi no uchi”.

[Ate]

Ate

  • Derived from “wate”.
    Chiefly used by female in Kansai-dialect area.

In the next and last post of “I” in Japanese, I’m going to tell about old-fashioned words.

 

Related posts:
#“I” in Japanese (1) (3)

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kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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