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While looking up マイカー in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gairaigo_and_wasei-eigo_terms, I came across マイ・ワイフ. Is マイ・ワイフ used in real life, or mainly in anime?

If the former, what differences does it have to other words for "wife"?

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This is very likely an anime subculture term. –  Flaw Jul 16 '12 at 14:33
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Flaw: That is the only place where I have ever heard the phrase used. –  Zhen Lin Jul 17 '12 at 3:20
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

At least in daily life, there is no word マイ・ワイフ or マイワイフ.

The prefix マイ means "personal (property)" or "private (property)" as opposed to "public" such as マイカー "privately owned car (as opposed to public transportation or company owned vehicles)" or マイマヨネーズ "mayonaise personally carried into restaurants (as opposed to those that restaurants are equipped with)". If there were such word as マイワイフ, it would most likely mean "a personal wife (as opposed to a shared one)".

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m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=85sIJcC8zbs ... Opps, close but not it. –  sawa Jul 16 '12 at 15:00
    
which video were you linking to? –  Andrew Grimm Jul 17 '12 at 10:52
    
@AndrewGrimm It is still linked. It is just a pun. –  sawa Jul 17 '12 at 11:37
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Just for fun youtube.com/watch?v=0AgDbAT56I0 –  Hyperworm Jul 17 '12 at 14:14
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Well there is this open paper English Loanwords in Japanese (Gillian Kay,1995) that has a nice short summary on The function of English Loanwords in the Japanese Language (3rd to last page of PDF) that I paraphrase here:

  • The existence of many loanwords which have Japanese equivalents provides an alternative tone of discourse.
  • Loanwords are sometimes used for special effect, especially in writing where the angular katakana contrasts with the curvey hiragana to emphasize or reveal a foreign connotation.
  • English loans do not have as deep undertones of meaning as native words, and can be used more easily to express sentiments or describe situations which may be difficult to talk about in Japanese. This is the euphemistic utility of Loanwords.

Kay doesn't really say much about all the social aspects of 外来語 but, to risk speculation, I'm guessing that マイワイフ, and most 外来語 in general, are used only because they are so conspicuous. Clearly 外来語 carries a class of connotations that native Japanese words don't provide (superficial or not), and its usage is at least one effective way to add some colour to one's diction. As for the difference between マイワイフ and the lexeme 妻 or 奥さん, I would think that the most important and salient contrast is at the discourse level where it seems that the set of social contexts for which マイワイフ would be appropriate are quite different from those contexts in which 妻 would be appropriate. It is kind of hard to articulate specifically the contextual conditions that afford the employment of マイワイフ, but to take a guess at it, I would think that the situational usage of マイワフ is characterized by what social behaviour is tolerated or permissible. So, マイワイフ would be observed in contexts where, for example, irony is permissible. Between friends, or between a manga author and its readership, irony is certainly a permissible language device. But between doctor and patient, politician and citizen, plaintiff and defendant, teacher and student, etc. irony cannot be employed so productively due to the potential violation of social factors.

Some further examples where my マイワイフ may be permissible/appropriate/tolerated:

  • Critical information is not being communicated
  • A low demand for explicit or unambiguous information
  • The speaker/writer is entertaining the listener/reader
  • Innovative/atypical/conspicuous word choice is acceptable, or even desirable
  • Intimacy. Specifically, an intimate relationship affords a wider or different scope of admissible words

So, in general, マイワイフ probably differs from the Japanese equivalent in the same way that all 外来語 differ from their Japanese equivalents. The differences might be described as particular specifications of a more general social criteria of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not for which 外来語 must conform too.

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It is an anime-subculture term. "Mai waifu" is commonly used to refer to one's favourite female character, and may also imply having an imaginary relationship with the character.

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Usage of マイ is pretty important, but ケースバイケース as pointed out above. For example, back in the '80s マイペース トレーニング was commonly heard on TV sumo commentary to describe those wrestlers who took a (too) leisurely approach to training. If you're living in Japan and using TV as study resource, you can drop this kind of thing into conversation to gain respect (especially if they know you can use keigo, too). Pronunciation has to be dead-on Japanese, though. At any rate You need マイ__ to read ads.

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