Friday, January 24, 2014

How do you call your wife?

Today, let's talk about the way of describing your family members.

As you may know, in Japanese,
describing about your family is different  from family of others.

For example...

私の兄 (watashi no ani) : my brother
私の友達のお兄さん (watashi no tomodachi no oniisan) : my friend's brother

In the past, it was said that wives should stay home and be quiet in Japan.
(In the past, I mean 30years ago... maybe 20years ago or it might be even now, unfortunately.)

The way of calling wives describes the situation a lot.

The common way of saying "wife" is 奥さん (okusan).
奥 of 奥さん means "the inner part" "behind", because wives were always inside the house.

家内 (kanai) is same. 家 means house and 内 means inside.

(奥さん is used for other person's wife and 家内 is used for your own wife)

More unbelievable example, there is a word 愚妻 (gusai).
愚 means "stupid" and 妻 means "wife".
Stupid wife!
When they talked about their wives in a modest way, they used this word.
My stupid wife!!!

I've heard my father used this word when he talked with his boss.
My mother didn't say anything at that time, but she complained later.
If it happened 40years ago, the wife couldn't even complain and the expression sounded natural.
Now, if my husband said 愚妻 (gusai) about me, hmm, it seems difficult to continue our marriage life...

By the way, recently, the way of describing your own wives is quite different depending on the person, especially in the casual situation.
(In the formal situation, you usually say 妻 (tsuma) or 家内 (kanai) )

Here are some examples.
① 嫁 (yome)
② カミさん (kamisan)
③ うちの (uchino)
④ 奥さん (okusan)
⑤ ワイフ (waifu)

① 嫁 (yome) originally meant "my son's wife". I don't know why this word is used so often as "my wife" now.

③ うちの (uchino) sounds "my home's", but it's used as one word (noun) like
うちのは買い物が好き (uchino wa kaimono ga suki)
"My wife likes shopping."

④ Though 奥さん (okusan) is usually used for other person's wife, recently they often use this for their wife in the casual situation.

Which one do you often hear?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Thank you for this article. I have heard an explanation for using the expression "gusai". As you mentioned, it was used when man referred to his wife in a modest way. The other person was supposed to balance the situation by saying something nice about the lady. I am Finnish, and men here tend to describe their wives similarly. I guess that it not only a cultural thing but a man thing.