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I'm making a shirt for a (rather egotistical) friend of mine and so am trying to do something with the slogan "I am the best" for fun. I need something with four characters only, and would like to ask the difference between

私の一番, 私が一番, 私は一番,

and which one would be the most appropriate in the context that he is saying it of himself. My grammar is not fantastic. I understand that が would entail a meaning like "I am the number one" versus は which would be "I am a number one" (correct me if I'm wrong). One of my friends has suggested

俺が一番, 俺様一番

Can someone explain to me how 俺 and 私 differ then? I'm quite confused. Also, this is for a boy, just in case anyone wonders.

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俺 is more 'masculine' and is generally used with males 私 is gender neutral i believe but usually not used by males –  Zhanger Dec 4 '11 at 12:27
    
俺 is less formal and can be used with friends. 私 is used in formal situations pronounced as わたくし, and can be used by both genders. NEVER use "俺様", as it is very rude. –  fefe Dec 4 '11 at 12:46
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@Flaw: what in the world makes you think that?? 一番 can perfectly well be used without an adjective –  Dave Dec 4 '11 at 14:25
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I think you should specify how much comical/jokish or serious and how much impact you want. It all depends on that. –  user458 Dec 5 '11 at 4:46
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@fefe: Isn't that the point? I think "俺様" fits perfectly here for such a blatantly self-aggrandizing message. –  Shane Dec 8 '11 at 20:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As you correctly note, the in this context adds focus to the noun phrase:

私が一番
'I am the best.' or 'The best one is me'

私は一番
'I am the best.'

[私]{わたくし} is very formal and polite, and is not usually used other than in business conversations, [私]{わたし} is neutral with politeness, is rough, and 俺様 is self-appraising. Any of them will work with or .

私の一番 does not make sense. 俺様一番 without the particle really sounds like a funny phrase made up by a non-Japanese speaker, the kind that indeed is often seen printed on T-shirts or tatoos.

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I would consider using a different word then 一番. To me, it feels like the thing you are the best at is ommitted. If you wanted to use 一番 I'd go with something like 一番かっこいい (the coolest).

My suggestion would be to use 最高{さいこう} or 最良{さいりょう} instead.

As for vs I think it really has to do with the kind of guy your friend is. If he's big and gruff, you can go with and if he's not, go with . Personally (without having met him, of course) I'd lean toward as it's more flexible.

So what I'd suggest would end up being 僕は最高.

Hope that helps!

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I'd like to lend my support to this one, I think 最高 is definitely the way to go in terms of semantic meaning. While I can't really qualify this, I usually think of 一番 as being used with a noun immediately after it, so 私の一番 sounds a little bit "wrong" to my mind. Given the unashamed braggadocio here, I think 俺 is the only way to go. It rolls off the tongue and carries all the necessary meaning. Using 僕 would be out of the question. "I'm the greatest!" –  furinkan Jan 29 '12 at 1:08

I'd say the closest to satisfying would probably be:

俺が一番

with possible variants:

俺が一番ですよ etc.

Keeping in mind that, no matter what, the phrase in question is going to sound silly (at best) and somewhat boastful verging on rude, I think waffling over the propriety of 俺 in this case is rather out of place. 私 would probably be too soft, and 僕: ridiculously out of place.

I don't think a Japanese would use '一番' in such a context. If anything, the kind of person who would say that (whether seriously or in jest) would probably use some manner of English ("俺がナンバーワン" etc.), but I doubt that would really satiate your friend's craving for something weird and foreign to write on a t-shirt.

PS: '俺様' could also be used here, I think. It is more pompous than rude (well: rude, because pompous), but once again: calling yourself 'the best' on a t-shirt has already established that quite clearly already.

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@DaveMG: I am not entirely clear on the reason for your comment, but just in case that was not clear enough: I was mainly responding to the comments on the OP above (and their suggestion that some formulations might be too direct/rude/etc). If anything, my answer goes the exact opposite direction of what you seem to be blaming me for... –  Dave Dec 5 '11 at 11:01
    
Sorry about that. I guess I misinterpreted because in a broader context of this site, because I feel like I often see advice telling people not to say some things under the common rubric of a usually personally held conviction about what is socially acceptable in Japan. So I think that I projected that onto your answer, which distorted my take on it. So... my bad. I'll delete my comment, since I'm just being off base. –  Dave M G Dec 5 '11 at 12:30

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