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In a current commercial ad of bird's nest aired by China's National Radio, two women identified as former classmates had the following conversation:

甲:我妈快70岁了,我要买礼物回去过中秋。

乙:是呀,好久都没见到咱妈了。。。。

It is clearly the two speakers are not sisters or daughters of the same woman which they both call mother, but 我 and 咱 are both first person nouns, what is the relation of the two words? Does one of the speaker try to endear herself to the other?

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The meaning of 咱 is different in northern China and the rest.

  • In east-north China, 咱 is the same as 我. People there say 咱 to refer to him/herself. And it depends whether the speaker is endearing him/herself. This usage is actually a little bit weird for Chinese from southern areas.

  • In the rest provinces of China, 咱 is different from 我。咱 refers to the both sides of a conversation, and is often used to show closer relationship or endearment. 咱 is much less frequently used than 我们 there.

So in your example, I think this conversation happens in east-north China since 咱妈 is rare in southern area and it simply refers to 我的妈妈.

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Yes, you are right!

Generally, 咱 has the same meaning as 咱们.

咱们 means One's own side (I or us) and each other (You).

  • Good and simple, up-vote – Kevman Sep 29 '17 at 5:46
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In the context, what 乙 said could be interpreted as either 是呀,好久都没见到咱们的妈妈们了 or 是呀,好久都没见到妈了。

Basically, 乙 agreed with what 甲 had said, and 乙 decided to see her own mother during 中秋 festival just as what 甲 would do for her mother.

Typically, by saying 咱, you could endear yourself to your interlocutor. For example, 有空去咱家坐坐?; 这是咱家的东西; I see 咱 is used a lot in Shenyang city.

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咱们 - you and me, i.e. "you" included.

我们 - we, i.e. "you" might or might not be included.

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  • 我[wǒ] 代词 a.(称自己) I; my; me. in my humble opinion 以我之见 b.(指称我们) we; our; us. we two; 我等二人 our university; 我校 c. (“我、你” 对举, 表示泛指): Each scrambled for the football at the football ground. 足球场上你争我夺。 d. (自己) self: self-criticism; 自我批评 selfless labour 忘我的劳动
  • 名词(姓氏) a surname: Wo Zi 我子
  • 咱们[zán men](我们) we: Let's talk it over. 咱们商量一下。 Let's go together. 咱们一块去。
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Basically '咱' means we or our. But in your context, '咱妈' just means your mother. Taking your mother as mine shows you have close relationship with the other side or are trying to build such a relationship. If it is the latter case, the other side may appreciate that, may not.

That's the tricky part of the language. I think a learner should avoid speaking that way for some reasons:

  • I don't think this is common Chinese. It's quite local. People from many areas of China don't speak that way though they know what that means. I don't think textbook makers should use this example to teach the language. And you should also avoid using '咱' in a serious context. Use '我们' instead.
  • Some(if not many) people may feel uncomfortable if you try to build close relationship without knowing them well. Others may appreciate that. This also reflects cultural diversity in different areas in China. It is safe not to use that.

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