Although I won’t admit it in Japanese circles, I do in fact read a ridiculous amount of scanlations. (that is, technically-illegal-but-not-yet-licensed-for-distribution-in-the-west, fan translations of Japanese comics.) And as both a linguistics enthusiast and a properly trained English major, the quality of the translations sometimes correlates too well with the price of viewing it online. But certain translated phrases appear to be conventionalized, despite their perceived illegitimacy as natural language. As the keen student of teutonic tongues may have inferred from the title of this post, this conventionalized translation is in fact “my win”.

For reference, I should include the source phrase: 「俺の勝ちだ」, which perhaps would best be literally translated as “[it’s] my victory”. But of course, why should my personal bias matter? Surely this is just quibbling over the crossbar of the ampersand!

No! Thanks to the emerging field of corpus linguistics, such personal intuitions on language can now be verified against other native speakers. So, going to the most excellent, and exceptionally well-priced corpus COCA on BYU, I first looked for any occurrence of the phrase “my win,” which yielded 11 hits. So maybe I was wrong. Maybe “my win” is as a legitimate phrase as “my victory”. But first, let’s see what was actually being returned…

One was a mistaken hyphen (so the phrase was actually “… my win-//dow …”), and another was quoting a Chinese native (ie, ESL speaker). So far so bad. Of the remaining 9 results, I personally found 5 to be acceptable, while the remaining four were ‘deficient’ in some way, which I suppose at best, only proves that it doesn’t gel that well within my own ideolect. Of the remaining four, I can’t say why they’re ‘worse’ than the five that I did accept, but here’s how I would have rephrased them in any case:

  1. (in a casino) “I collected my win from the cashier, and …”
    Personally, I would have gone with “I collected my winnings,” as the more natural fit.
  2. “I attribute my win … to hard work …”
    → “I attribute me winning …”
  3. “I wondered whether my win might have upset all those congregation ladies…”
    →”I wondered whether me winning might have …”
  4. “…, after my win in the doubles tournament.”
    → “… after I won in the doubles tournament.”

But to be thorough, I also checked for occurrences of “my victory” in the COCA as well: 29 hits. But of the 29, 9 were adjectives (e.g. “my victory garden;” “my victory lap;” “my victory yodel”). Even though “my victory” still easily dominates “my win”, both numbers are perhaps too low to make a strong statistical claim for “my victory” being more natural than “my win”. So, turning to other sources that came with pretty graphs, I looked ’em up on Google’s N-gram Viewer:

The listed frequencies are still quite low (as to be expected from a phrase like this), but I’d say the evidence is still clear. Clicking around for the actual samples, I learned that “my victory’s reward” was quite in vogue in the 1800’s, and that even in the 2000’s, Google was also ignoring hyphens for “my win – dow,” or “my win-win philosophy”. Also, hits were being generated from “win” in reference to the flagship product of Microsoft; “My win 7,” “my win web page”. As for “my victory,” a few false positives were also occurring from the noun/adjective confusion, but overall, the large majority were still my hypothesized “my victory(noun)”.

So on the literal face of it, my intuition was correct; “my victory” is definitely more natural than ” my win,” even though both exist, especially in a sports context. (On the other hand, “my victory” has been extended to other things like “my victory over lung cancer”.) But after all this, surely there’s an even more natural way of expressing this sentiment of victory? “I win!” (or, “I won!”) Incredibly, “I win” yielded 400 results on the COCA, but a lot of them were in the subjunctive: “If I win the lottery, …” which kinda discounts the specific interjectory use that I’m aiming for here. What about “I won”? 1099 results! That is pretty significant. And most of them are the right usage I want as well! (Thankfully, BYU’s interface for the COCA is more intelligent; “I won’t” is stored as “I wo_n’t”, to keep it separate from “I won!”) Let’s see the above graph, when weighing in against “I won”:

Pretty drastic, eh? So, overall tally?

COCA G! N-Gram Viewer Google search
“my win” 9 0.000001% 4.2mill
“my victory” 20 0.000006% 2.7mill
“I won” 1099 0.000500% 256mill

“I won” is the overwhelmingly preferred option. Compared to that, my quibble over “my victory” versus “my win” seems like small peanuts. One deceptive outlier of this data is the Google search for “my win” which outnumbers “my victory,” but again, this is inflated from all the shorthand references to Microsoft’s flagship line of products (e.g. “my win vista keeps crashing”).

So the results are in, and the conclusion is clear: the next time you see 「俺の勝ちだ」, you should know to recast it as “I won!”

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