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Kanji for June 6, 2005 - First Person Pronoun Series #2 - Kanji of the Day [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kanji of the Day

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Kanji for June 6, 2005 - First Person Pronoun Series #2 [Jun. 6th, 2005|09:42 am]
Kanji of the Day

kanjioftheday

[rikoshi]

ボク しもべ

BOKU; shimobe

I (masculine); manservant



Some examples:
家僕 = kaboku - houseboy
忠僕 = chuuboku - faithful servant
(also 下部) = shimobe - manservant

Not to be confused with:
= BOKU - to strike
= GYOU - business


Boku is a semi-formal first-person pronoun that's typically used by males. For the most part, it's used by younger boys before they grow up and get all manly, at which point they usually switch over to ore (tomorrow's kanji). Girls also use this, on rare occasion, if they want to seem tomboyish. However, it's also used by men in situations where watashi would feel too formal and stuffy (and where ore would be too crass). This tends to be the pronoun I use for myself in about 98% of situations (perhaps I just don't feel overly manly).

In reality, this pronoun isn't used all that commonly, appearing in manga and anime far more often than it does in real life (just another point of note for people to not take Japanese entertainment as gospel). Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't use it, and if you're a foreigner, it could actually improve your image (not using watashi might suggest that you don't just parrot your Japanese out of a dictionary). If you can speak the language at at least an intermediate or proficient level, and you think you have a good grasp of politeness levels inherent in Japanese speech and social situations, you can probably safely use this to refer to yourself (although again, beginners are strongly advised to just stick with watashi).

Another interesting note is that, despite the masculine (or at least boyish) tone of boku, it is actually used very frequently in songs sung by female Japanese vocalists; it's actually used more often than watashi and atashi, which are the most typical female pronouns (crack open your Hamasaki Ayumi and Yaida Hitomi CDs and give a listen).

As you can see from the compounds above, the original meaning of this kanji was 'manservant,' and is still used in some compounds today (I believe that this is the Chinese usage of the character, but if someone could confirm/deny that, that would be helpful). There's sort of a trend in Japanese language in culture to always find some new way to berate oneself in the name of propriety, and so a term like 'humble servant' was seen as a natural choice for a self-referential namesake (for you Japanese history buffs, boku entered common use as a first-person pronoun during the Bakumatsu).
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: deathbytamarind
2005-06-06 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this one! One of my male friends uses "boku" a lot and it confused the crap out of me.
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[User Picture]From: rikoshi
2005-06-06 05:54 pm (UTC)
I'd be happy to answer any specific usage questions if you have any!
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[User Picture]From: deathbytamarind
2005-06-06 06:04 pm (UTC)
I just finished my first trimester of Japanese. Sensei uses Japanese for Busy People, if you're familiar with it. We completed Lesson 10 in the book before the semester break. So I'm still really rudimentary. it's like kindergarten. :)
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[User Picture]From: rikoshi
2005-06-06 06:09 pm (UTC)
Ah, okay. So I'm guessing you're being subjected to the classic, "Friend Who Knows More Japanese Than You and Subtly Shows Off Constantly," then?
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[User Picture]From: deathbytamarind
2005-06-06 06:16 pm (UTC)
More like Friend Who Knows More Japanese Than Me Who Tries to Get Me to Pick Up Stuff Through Osmosis. He'll throw out words and phrases that more often than not just confuse me, and I don't remember them too easily. I remember the stuff we learn in the lessons and dialogues in class because it's applied. heh.
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[User Picture]From: rikoshi
2005-06-06 06:20 pm (UTC)
Ah. So it's well-intentioned, but counterproductive?

Yeah, that happens a lot, especially with languages. Everyone seems to have different learning styles for languages, and a barrage of terminology without any context tends to not help.

I used to teach Japanese on a beginner level as a volunteer, and the group I had was comprised of (surprise, surprise) mostly furries. So, a lot the early vocabulary and sentence examples I gave were related to animals, and such -- that sort of interest tie-in keeps people focused and more eager to catch other things when it's lumped together.
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[User Picture]From: deathbytamarind
2005-06-06 06:30 pm (UTC)
I took French in high school and found it was good for me to immerse myself in it, but it's a Latin-based language and a heck of a lot easier than Japanese is for an English/Spanish speaker like me. It came naturally to me.

The lack of context throws me off, totally. I like the structured ways language textbooks introduce new concepts, like how we just learned verbs with "o shimasu" in relation to shopping and eating and doing things at specific places, using the article "de." It makes it all a lot easier to understand.

if I messed that up I apologize.
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[User Picture]From: taren_
2005-06-06 05:14 pm (UTC)
I thought I kept hearing singers using boku! That would explain it. I suppose it's easier than saying "watashi wa" over and over again.

Today's kanji also needs to be distinguished from 業, business. It has a different meaning, reading, and an extra stroke, but it looks similar enough to me.
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[User Picture]From: rikoshi
2005-06-06 05:16 pm (UTC)
Ah, thanks for the recommendation there! I'll add it to the list!
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