38 What first person pronoun should I use when speaking Japanese?

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On this episode of Ichimon Japan we ask: What first person pronoun should I use when speaking Japanese?

Topics Discussed
  • The most common first person pronouns used in Japanese
  • The tendency for Japanese speakers to avoid using pronouns
  • The lack of true pronouns in Japanese
  • How choosing which first person Japanese pronoun to use can be confusing even for native Japanese speakers
  • Whether ore is only used by tough guys in Japanese
  • Theories about the history and evolution of the first person Japanese pronoun ore
  • Who uses ore
  • The concept of direct index vs indirect index
  • Whether ore is innately masculine
  • What traits people associate with ore
  • Whether women use ore
  • The evolution and history of boku
  • What traits are associated with boku
  • Whether women use boku
  • About watashi, watakushi, and atashi
  • Using honorific language in Japanese as a way to scare or build a psychological wall with the listener
  • A traumatic experience stemming from someone's reluctance to schoose a pronoun
  • And much more!
Sources, Links, Videos, Etc.

To learn more about Shoe Murakami, check out episode 45 of Japan Station.

You can find Shoe Murakami on the following platforms.

Here are some of the main English-language sources used while doing the research for this episode.

Here are some of the main Japanese-language sources used when doing the research for this episode.

Here is the Tofugu.com article about Japanese first person pronouns that is mentioned in this episode.

Don't forget to check out the latest episode of Japan Station.

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Japanese Vocabulary List

Most episodes feature at least one or two interesting Japanese words or phrases. Here’s some of the ones that came up on this episode. All information is from Jim Breen's WWWJDIC.

  • Ore
    • 俺 : 俺(P); 己 【おれ(P); おらあ(俺)(ok); おり(俺)(ok)】 (pn) (male) (rough or arrogant) I; me
  • Boku
    • 僕 【ぼく】 (pn) (1) (male) I; me; (pn) (2) (when addressing young boys) you; (pn) (3) (See しもべ) manservant
  • Watashi/Watakushi/Atashi
    • 私 【あたし(P); あたくし; あたい; あて】 (pn) (fem) (uk) I; me; (P); 【わたし】 ; (pn) (slightly formal or feminine) I; me; (P); : 妾; 私 【わらわ】 ; (pn) (arch) (hum) (fem) I; me; : 儂; 私 【わし】 ; (pn) (uk) (male) (used by elderly) I; me; 【あっし; わっし】 ; (pn) (mainly used by working men) I; me; 【し】 ; (n) (See 公・こう・1) private affairs; personal matter; 【わい; わて】 ; (pn) (1) (arch) (ksb:) I; me; (pn) (2) (わい only) (used toward people of equal or lower status) you; 【わたい】 ; (pn) (arch) (ktb:) I; me; 【わたくし】 ; (pn) (1) (usu. more formal than わたし) (See 私・わたし) I; me; (adj-no,n) (2) (ant: 公・おおやけ・2) personal (affairs, etc.); private; (n) (3) selfishness; partiality; (n) (4) secrecy; confidentiality; 【わっち】 ; (pn) (used esp. by people of low status) I; me
  • Chūboku
    • 忠僕 【ちゅうぼく】 (n) faithful servant
  • Nōto
    • ノート (n) (1) (abbr) (See ノートブック) notebook; copy-book; exercise book
We Want Your Questions

Is there something about Japan that confuses you? Is there something about Japanese culture that you would like to learn more about? Is there something in Japanese history that you would like us to explain? We're always looking for new questions about Japan to answer, so if you have one, please send it to ichimon@japankyo.com.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing Theme: Produced by Apol (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr)

Ichimon Japan cover art: Produced by Erik R.

Follow Japankyo on Social Media Full Show Notes

Japanese Vocabulary List

Most episodes feature at least one or two interesting Japanese words or phrases. Here’s some of the ones that came up on this episode. All information is from Jim Breen's WWWJDIC.

  • Ore
    • 俺 : 俺(P); 己 【おれ(P); おらあ(俺)(ok); おり(俺)(ok)】 (pn) (male) (rough or arrogant) I; me
  • Boku
    • 僕 【ぼく】 (pn) (1) (male) I; me; (pn) (2) (when addressing young boys) you; (pn) (3) (See しもべ) manservant
  • Watashi/Watakushi/Atashi
    • 私 【あたし(P); あたくし; あたい; あて】 (pn) (fem) (uk) I; me; (P); 【わたし】 ; (pn) (slightly formal or feminine) I; me; (P); : 妾; 私 【わらわ】 ; (pn) (arch) (hum) (fem) I; me; : 儂; 私 【わし】 ; (pn) (uk) (male) (used by elderly) I; me; 【あっし; わっし】 ; (pn) (mainly used by working men) I; me; 【し】 ; (n) (See 公・こう・1) private affairs; personal matter; 【わい; わて】 ; (pn) (1) (arch) (ksb:) I; me; (pn) (2) (わい only) (used toward people of equal or lower status) you; 【わたい】 ; (pn) (arch) (ktb:) I; me; 【わたくし】 ; (pn) (1) (usu. more formal than わたし) (See 私・わたし) I; me; (adj-no,n) (2) (ant: 公・おおやけ・2) personal (affairs, etc.); private; (n) (3) selfishness; partiality; (n) (4) secrecy; confidentiality; 【わっち】 ; (pn) (used esp. by people of low status) I; me
  • Chūboku
    • 忠僕 【ちゅうぼく】 (n) faithful servant
  • Nōto
    • ノート (n) (1) (abbr) (See ノートブック) notebook; copy-book; exercise book
We Want Your Questions

Is there something about Japan that confuses you? Is there something about Japanese culture that you would like to learn more about? Is there something in Japanese history that you would like us to explain? We're always looking for new questions about Japan to answer, so if you have one, please send it to ichimon@japankyo.com.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing Theme: Produced by Apol (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr)

Ichimon Japan cover art: Produced by Erik R.

Follow Japankyo on Social Media Full Show Notes

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