4

Have the 'inside-person' and 'outside-person' meanings of 집사람 and 바깥분 faded sufficiently that they still mean 'wife' and 'husband' in all cases?

If someone is a house husband, might it seem like making fun of him to call him a 바깥분? Would calling a woman with a high-powered job a 집사람 seem ironic?

4

Even though a wife works outside home and husband stays at home, most of Koreans would still say that a wife is 집사람, and a husband is 바깥사람(분) because it is not due to meaning but custom.

2

Exactly because of the issue you mentioned, I think the words 집사람 and 바깥분 are falling out of fashion these days, in the same way English words "spokesman" or "stewardess" do. (Maybe it's a generational thing: I'm in early 40s, and people around me rarely use these terms.)

So, I'd suggest using 아내/부인 and 남편 instead. Someone else's wife is best referred to as 부인. One's own wife can be 아내 or 와이프 or even 마누라 depending on what the husband likes.

집사람 would also be considered impolite to use on someone else's wife. So, I guess calling a career woman 집사람 depends on whether her husband likes to use the term...

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  • I've heard that 부인 isn't appropriate when talking about your wife to persons of high status - would 아내 be less honorific (and more appropriate) in these situations? – topo Reinstate Monica Aug 29 '16 at 8:15
  • 부인 is somewhat honorific, so I think using the term for your own wife would sound weird, no matter who you are talking to. Personally I prefer 아내, but some married men prefer 와이프 when talking about their wife to others. – jick Aug 29 '16 at 15:22
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Adding to the two great answers posted by @ClaraKim and @jick, you need to note that the exact opposite word of '바깥사람 (literally, outside person)' could be '안사람 (inside person)' rather than '집사람 (house person)'. It will depend on how people react to the words, but '안사람' sounds more respectful than '집사람' as the latter sounds like a worker at home.

One strange thing is '바깥사람' could be changed to '바깥분' as an honorific, but '안사람' is not changed to '안분' and sometimes '바깥양반 (양반 means a noble person in Chosun Dynasty)' is used as a more honorific word than '바깥분', but there is no such word as '안양반'. Sexism in Korean? Yes.

'안사람', '집사람' all are used to replace '아내' or '부인'. '바깥사람', '바깥분', and '바깥양반' all mean '남편' and who takes care of household chores and who earns money outside home will not change the usage unless you want to make a joke using the words.

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