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My friend and I are learning Japanese. For a time, all we knew was 私, but after we learned more words, she started to use あたし when referring to herself, and I began using 僕. What I'm wondering is, how commonly are these used?

Related: Is it ok for non-japanese to refer to themselves as [僕]{ぼく} and if not why?

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I just spent the weekend volunteering for cleanup in the tsunami area and I heard "boku" a lot between the Japanese volunteers, which surprised me after what I'd read under various questions on this site. (I'm pretty sure I even heard it used by a female at least once) –  hippietrail Jun 12 '11 at 13:05
    
Notice that あたし and わたし are different. The former has stronger female and casual connotations, and is less frequent. –  sawa Jul 6 '11 at 0:59
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

あたし is quite common for females, but 僕 is not that much. In my feeling, 僕 has some romantic sense, so using 僕 when you talk to girls should be no problem at all. (Note that I use romatic sense here is for non-family members, and non-closed friends)

Japanese use 俺 a lot recently, and here is a report about usage about 僕 and 俺

第1期 - 1895~1935, 第2期 - 1966-1991, 第3期 - 1991~1998

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And this is the another report about 僕 vs 私 at business/work taken at 2011, results in around 20%~20% people using 僕.

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ref:

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"僕 has some romantic sense, so using 僕 when you talk to girls should be okay." Really? I've never heard this. (On a tangent, when did the poster say they were heterosexual, or male for that matter?) –  Amanda S Jun 10 '11 at 18:32
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Statistics can also be really confusing. You should check situations (as Derek said), and age is also of a great importance to this question. There's no denying 僕 gets more common the younger the speaker gets, and AFAIK that also applies for girls, especially in early ages. Later, society sets in, but IIRC I've seen a research showing that in very early ages many girls use 僕 and maybe even some 俺, alongside 私, あたし, and their own names (so-called "talking in third person", which is really common in Japanese, since it makes no distinction between 3rd and 1st persons). –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 10 '11 at 21:33
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@Amanda, that's not just heterosexual men. 僕 might have a slight romantic nuance, but it doesn't mean that a heterosexual man cannot use it when talking to other heterosexual men, for instance. In other words, this romantic nuance is only a small part of what 僕 is, and it's probably complex even without gender and orientation. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 10 '11 at 21:36
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Oh, here's the research. It was surprisingly easy to find on Google, and fortunately access is free: inst.at/trans/16Nr/01_4/ito16.htm –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 10 '11 at 21:39
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@Boaz: I doubt that any statistical conclusion can be drawn from 3.5 hours of conversation with 6 children. Am I missing something? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 10 '11 at 23:59
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It depends on who uses it. あたし is very common with women. Gay men also use it (sometimes for a joke, like Tanoshingo). If you watch Japanese TV, you'll hear it everyday!

僕 on the other hand isn't that popular within young guys. They tend to use 俺 in informal speech. However, instead of using the too formal 私, they might use 僕.

(Young) people (or kids) using 僕 might also be called 僕ちゃん, because it has some kind of a cute meaning.

僕 tends to have a more polite feeling, a more "educated" feeling.

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The comment which I left on your other answer applies here, too. I am afraid that you are confusing gay men (homosexual men) with effeminate men. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 11 '11 at 14:31
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This is a very difficult question to conclusively answer. "Common" depends on where you are, who you're with, and what the context is. The word you choose to refer to yourself often changes depending on these factors. If "common" means, "Does a significant percentage of Japanese use these words regularly?" then yes, everyone will tell you they are common. But does that mean you can use them all the time? Of course not. You have to adjust to whatever situation and context you're in.

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In Tokyo, among the people I speak with, this is mostly a matter of age.

あたし is simple. In Tokyo, younger (er) women, say 30 and below, use this all the time in casual situations.

僕 is commonly used by my friends in their 30s, whereas friends in their 20s tend to use 俺.

I use both depending on which group I am speaking to.

Also very common is to refer to yourself using your own name. This feels weird for English speakers at first but is normal in Japanese.

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Referring to oneself using one's own name is very feminine (if not childish too). –  Axioplase Jul 9 '11 at 2:41
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