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Dawei3

Most common word to refer to your wife?

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Dawei3

Tomsima - Thanks. It’s tough to fully understand the cultural context to these statements so hearing different perspectives is helpful. After being told men don’t say that, my ears tend to be hyper-vigilant in listening for men actually saying the many phrases.  I’ll need to listen to how they say the phrases. 

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imron
11 hours ago, Tomsima said:

I say this, as I avoided saying 討厭 for many years as I was told 'only girls say that' when I first started using it. However, over the years I noticed that men also seemed to say it, but often in a more defiant way, not in the 撒嬌 way

Yep, men can say it, they just shouldn't say it like this.

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Lu
14 hours ago, imron said:

Oh wow now I don't know whether to look out for that movie or to avoid it like the plague 😂

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imron

It's not bad.  I mean it's fairly standard rom-com fare, but if you liked that clip, you'll probably like the movie.  My favourite scene was when they were eating rabbit.

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Dawei3

If you are looking for a topic to engage Chinese friends about language, I definitely recommend this topic.  After posting this, I've continued asking friends from all around China about husband/wife and they have strongly different opinions. 

 

It's a fun topic to discuss because there are so many different words and everyone has had a strong opinion about what is appropriate/inappropriate.  They generally have strong arguments about which words they use.  

 

 

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Lu

Yeah, the 'too native' angle is interesting. Another factor is what you are listening for. If you're talking to a foreigner who speaks your language to a certain extent, you can usually follow even if they speak it badly, because you take a guess at what words they might be using. If they then say something very, very native, you're thrown off guard: what did I just hear? This is, I think, also the reason that some Chinese people cannot understand a foreigner's Chinese: any Chinese beyond 你好 is 'too native' and they are listening for English, which they don't understand, so all comprehension fails. I feel that if your accent improves, you can also use more and more 'too native' phrases. Like, a Chinese student fresh off the plane sounds weird saying 'y'alright mate, pint of IPA please' and needs to say 'Hello, one glass of beer please, IPA'. But someone who looks Chinese but grew up there can do it and nobody will bat an eye.

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murrayjames

Another data point:

 

My wife, who is from Chengdu, and I have been married eight years. When we first got married, my wife asked me not to call her 太太 because it made her sound old. Recently, however, she asked me to start calling her 太太 because 太太 sounds classier than 老婆. We are both in our mid thirties.

 

She has never liked 媳妇儿.

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Dawei3

Murryjames - Thanks.  Like any language, Chinese evolves.  It seems like the word wife has evolved at a particularly fast pace.  Your post illustrates this well. 

 

I'd like to know the words for wife that were used 20, 30 years ago....

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Lu

Could be evolution of language, but my reading was that it was evolution of this particular person: eight years ago, Murrayjames' wife considered herself too young to be a 太太, but now she considers herself old enough. Much as at some point you don't mind being called 阿姨 instead of 姐姐, and a little bit later you will insist on it.

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Dawei3

As a late addition to the above (and to a topic that I obviously find interesting), I've noticed that friends use a very wide variety of terms for wife, both regarding their wife or when someone is talking with me about my wife. 

 

In a recent very informal conversation, in the first sentence the person said "你的妻子..." and in the very next sentence she said "你的爱人..."  I doubt she even realized she used a different word (she was referring to my wife).  She's around 25 years old.  If I had asked her "why did you use different words?", she likely would have had no answer; she was speaking quickly and used a different word without thinking, as one does unconsciously with one's native language.  

On 8/8/2018 at 3:34 AM, Bibu said:
On 8/7/2018 at 12:20 PM, Jim said:

always say ,

brave!i doult since 90 generation, they may not know it.

 

I've heard 爱人 more commonly then I would have expected based on Bibu's and comments from friends (many of whom were born in the 90s).  If asked, friends may say "爱人 is an old word we rarely use", yet some use 爱人 their daily speech without thinking.  

 

As an English example of unconscious use, a Chinese friend was talking with me about how "the" is pronounced.  I had said we say "the" with a short "e" and we very rarely say "thee."  Then she pointed out we say "thee hour."  And she was right.  If I consciously say it, I might say with a short "e", but if I say it quickly & naturally, it's "thee hour."  (I'm writing this as an American.  I don't know if British, Australians, South Africans etc. also say "thee hour.")

 

My sense is that the word for wife can vary much and the choice of the word doesn't always mean the person is trying to convey a different feeling, i.e., a formal or informal.  The different word use could result from unconscious thought.  Similarly in English, there are times we specifically say "thee" to emphasize a point, but thee may also creep in unconsciously as in thee hour.  

 

 

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Demonic_Duck

太太 is one of the very first words I ever learned in Chinese, in the Teach Yourself Chinese textbook.

 

I literally can't recall having ever heard it used in a real-life conversation, other than in the collocation 老太太 for old ladies. This is having lived in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen and traveled decently widely within mainland China.

 

In the book, it was used in the context of meeting "李先生" and his wife "李太太", which seems ridiculously formal and also kinda sexist, given that Chinese women don't take their husbands' surnames. The English equivalent would be calling John Smith's wife "Mrs John Smith".

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Tomsima

an additional comment from me on this topic since last commenting: It seems to be the case that using 老婆, even if used among friends, can make people feel slightly embarrassed if they don't know your wife as well as they do you. Having used the word in a variety of different settings over the last few years, 老婆 appears to assume a common 'closeness' among all involved in the conversation, and can thus easily come off as mismatched register. I now use 妻子 for all professional situations as well as large groups of friends, and 老婆 only for family and situations involving just one or two friends.

 

Sometimes I wonder if the unwritten etiquette of Chinese is more difficult to master than the defined etiquette of languages like Japanese or Tibetan...

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Lu
34 minutes ago, Tomsima said:

Sometimes I wonder if the unwritten etiquette of Chinese is more difficult to master than the defined etiquette of languages like Japanese or Tibetan...

I think the problem is rather that that stuff is not taught (or not always, at least). I came out of university with only 先生, 小姐 and 女士, and learned only after that, in the real world, that you almost never address anyone with those titles. You always use their title: 王院长、李团长、刘秘书、等等 (see also 陈总, although I've never used 总 myself, since I'm not sure of the level of formality/nearness required), and for anyone with any amount of status related to writing things down, 张老师. (I am also a 老师 now, occasionally a 姑娘 or a 美女 for people who don't know that I write things down for a living, but rarely if ever a 小姐.) It would have saved me time and insecurity if someone would have explained this to me.

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xinoxanu

Definitely 老婆 in Chengdu, but my ex's parents called each other by their names or pet names... and they were in their early 50's.

 

Using 老婆 in a joking way with your gf will cause her to blush, guaranteed 100%. It's worth mentioning that, among young people, this word was specially awkward to use after that couple shot an amateur video in a Uniqlo fitting room a couple years back... 

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Monty Keys
8 hours ago, Tomsima said:

an additional comment from me on this topic since last commenting: It seems to be the case that using 老婆, even if used among friends, can make people feel slightly embarrassed if they don't know your wife as well as they do you. Having used the word in a variety of different settings over the last few years, 老婆 appears to assume a common 'closeness' among all involved in the conversation, and can thus easily come off as mismatched register. I now use 妻子 for all professional situations as well as large groups of friends, and 老婆 only for family and situations involving just one or two friends.

 

Many thanks for this explanation... It finally makes sense after sifting through so many different suggestions which all became somewhat 'unreliable' when tested in real life situations....

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Dawei3
On 8/17/2020 at 3:26 PM, Tomsima said:

if they don't know your wife as well as they do you

This is SO interesting.  I want to see if I can ask the person who said 妻子 and 爱人 why she used these terms and not 老婆.  The situation fits your example, i.e., the person doesn't know my wife and only knows me to a limited extent.  However, it may be difficult for her to answer.  There are things I say naturally in English, but it's hard to explain why I pick 1 word and not another.  

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Flickserve

In English, it like having terms such as “my wife”, “me wife”, “wifey”, “the missus”. There’s a certain degree of formality to whom you are talking to depending on your familiarity with them. 

@Tomsima

 

would you put 太太 like this? 

 

妻子 - professional situations, formal

太太 - polite conversation, using it won’t make you look uncouth.

老婆 - Casual conversations amongst people you know fairly well.

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suMMit

我跟我老婆一块儿去爬山。

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mungouk

Some Chinese cultural-historical background here on the concept of "housewife" and 太太 "lifestyle"...

 

The Life, Death, and Potential Rebirth of China’s ‘Taitai’ Housewives

Sixth Tone, 18 Aug 2020

 

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1006044/The Life, Death, and Potential Rebirth of China’s ‘Taitai’ Housewives/

 

Quote

 

[...] a number of early 20th-century Chinese women rejected the independence of “new women” and embraced their roles as the wives of wealthy men, or taitai. While some married professional women continued to work, hiring nannies from the countryside to take care of the home and insisting on going by their professional titles, others subsumed their identities into that of their husbands. Even an educated woman who married well might adopt Western practices and go by her husband’s surname: “Mrs. So-and-so.”

 

There was a distinctly class-based element to the taitai identity. Women who didn’t marry rich didn’t have the option to become taitai or quit their jobs, and few gave up their surnames. Unsurprisingly, the tide turned against this group after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Afterward, taitai vanished from public discourse without a trace.
 

 

 

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