In a regular Japanese class, we are taught there are 3 basic ways to refer to oneself.
私 （watashi), あたし (atashi), and 僕 (boku).
However, there are many other wonderful ways to refer to oneself in a casual manner. A word of warning though, don’t do what I do and get yourself in the habit of referring to yourself in a casual manner all the time. I’ve had many occasions where I am more casual than I should be and realize it right after the word comes out of my mouth. That said, these are all good fun to use to impress your Japanese friends or just out-right confuse them.
Below is a list of words we can use for “I” or “me” and a note about their nuance and usage.
私 わたくし watakushi (me, I) You are being very polite when referring to yourself. Often used when giving a speech or apologizing for political gaffes.
私 わたし watashi (me, I) When in doubt, use this. You can’t go wrong with this. Use this in normal, everyday settings. Talking with co-workers, the boss, clients etc…
あたし atashi (me, I – females only) Like Watashi above, but used by females.
僕 ぼく boku (me, I) Used to guys, less formal than Watashi above. Used when talking with friends or people about the same age. Girls have also started using it recently if they’re trying to sound masculine. Though coming from girls, it sounds odd to my ears.
オレ ore (me, I) Used by boys. This is *very* casual and should only be used with close friends and family. People who are on the inside. When said by young boys it’s aim is to make them sound big and tough.
朕 ちん chin (me, I – used by royalty) You will probably never use this. Not even the emperor uses this any longer. I recommend using it when you want to throw your friends through a loop. It might also be worth giving a go at the local Yodobashi camera for better service. It’s high time you start demanding the respect you’re worth. Results not guaranteed.
吾輩 わがはい wagahai (me, I – old Japanese) You are probably familiar with this from the famous Natsume Soseki book, 吾輩は猫であるI am a Cat. The English translation of the title does not do it any justice. This is because Wagahai conveys a sense of arrogance. A sense that you are higher than the other person. That you are looking down on them. Conveniently enough exactly the manner in which we would expect a cat to refer to itself, as a superior looking down. That said, this was maybe more common in the Taisho-era when he wrote this book, but these days it’s few and far between.
That’s all I can think of for now. If you know of any others, share the knowledge post a comment below.
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