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I see the ending まい all over the place in the JLPT books and in example phrases but I can't actually think of an example of somebody saying it or writing in an email (from SMS style messages to work messages of varying formality). (I live in Tokyo, to rule out dialect issues)

e.g. 仕方あるまい

Do people actually use the term まい in everyday speech / writing?

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I don't know about in real life, but people certainly use it in fiction. –  snailboat Oct 25 '12 at 12:59
    
I've heard people use it in real life. –  istrasci Oct 25 '12 at 14:53

2 Answers 2

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No, it's not really used in everyday speech. "Everyday writing" is a little ambiguous because it's mostly the form of the writing that determines the tone. To address your edit, it would be weird to use まい in a message to your friend, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it in work correspondence if only because that tends to be more formal in general. The more formal it is the less unusual it is for a term like まい to appear. Generally it's just not a spoken term and is reserved for more formal situations, however if you were to use it in conversation you wouldn't be misunderstood or anything.

In my experience though it is a term that just isn't used much at all regardless. You should be able to recognize it, of course, but I don't think I've ever seen it used outside of writing, and even then I think I usually see it as a line from a character with a particularly formal speaking style or something of that sort. As the comments note, it has a very old fashioned sort of feeling, although it does make some modern appearances in the phrase ~じゃあるまいし.

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Good point about the ambiguousness of "everyday writing", question edited. –  paullb Oct 25 '12 at 9:50
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I'm not sure you're right about まい tending to appear more in formal writing. To me, it seems that the diachronical factor is the important one, not the formality factor. Do you have any examples of contemporary formal writing where まい is used? –  dainichi Oct 26 '12 at 6:47
    
My suggestion that it would be used more in formal Japanese just because formal Japanese tends to be a lot closer to older Japanese. You maybe right in that it's better to emphasize time over formality. –  ssb Oct 26 '12 at 7:50

I saw some people using it here but it is not common. One case I saw many times was a girl lecturing her friend and said 高校生じゃあるまいし kind of this.

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I was trying to think of the one case/expression I know that does contain まい and this is it. (It is also in JLPT1) –  Tim Oct 25 '12 at 11:00
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This is actually a nice nugget of an expression, じゃ・ではあるまいし, which means like "It's not like you're a (high school student in this example)," and might be one of the more common uses of まい that you will see in modern day. –  ssb Oct 25 '12 at 23:44
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@ssb: No, 高校生じゃあるまいし means “It is as if you were a high school student.” That is, you are not a high school student, but you are acting like a high school student or someone is treating you like a high school student. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 27 '12 at 16:22
    
I guess I should clarify that in my comment there I meant it in the context of a sentence like "Why are you acting so dramatic? It's not like you're a high school student or anything." –  ssb Oct 28 '12 at 15:11
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@TsuyoshiIto Your translation sounds the same as ssb's translation to me (though ssb's is a little more colloquial). (The "like" in ssb's sentence and the "as if" in yours don't have the same meaning, if that's the source of your confusion?) –  Billy Oct 30 '12 at 0:06

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