Honorifics in culture are very different from society to society. In the USA, honorifics we use include sir and ma’am as well as cordial/formal manners of address, such as addressing somebody who has a PhD/MD as “doctor” or a teacher as “professor.”
But some cultures, such as Japan, have a much more complex system of honorifics that is not familiar to the average American.
Redditor Go-go-shujin found herself in this situation with her Japanese husband and his family, in which he requested to be called a somewhat unusual honorific in front of his very traditional family.
Unsure if she did the right thing by refusing, our original poster, or OP, went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for feedback from objective strangers.
“AITA for not calling my husband ‘my honored husband’ in front of his parents?”
OP told us about her relationship with her husband and her grasp of Japanese.
“I am a 28-year-old woman, and have been married to my husband, a 32-year-old man since 2018.”
“My husband is ethnically Japanese, and a second-generation American. His parents are from Osaka.”
“He kind of sort of half speaks Japanese, mostly sentences he has memorized/greetings, and his parents speak great English.”
“On the other hand, I lived in Japan for three years, so I am conversationally pretty good.”
“I have studied hard to get to the level I’m at, and I have passed level 2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (not great, but not bad).”
OP is in a sticking place with her husband wanting to be called an honorific that puts him on a pedestal.
“Lately, my husband is super into me calling him goshujin sama, which can be translated to ‘my honored husband.'” “
“It’s extremely unusual to call your own husband this, as it is usually reserved for other people’s husbands as a respectful term, but it’s kind of an anime/Japanese geek culture thing.”
“I was OK with it in private because it makes him happy.”
“Last week went to his parents’ house for dinner, and on the way over he asked if I could call him goshujin-sama all evening.”
“I immediately shot his idea down with a firm ‘no,’ because that would be SUPER embarrassing. His parents are native Japanese speakers in their 60s.”
“I’m not going to subject them to what you’d pay a waitress in a maid cafe $20 for a cup of coffee to call you.”
“To be honest, I don’t think my husband really gets how the phrase is properly used, despite his insistence.”
OP held firm but is in a strange place with this phrase.
“He kept trying to convince me, reminding me that he is Japanese and knows what is proper (despite the fact that I speak better Japanese than him), but I was having none of it. I just shut down and tuned him out.”
“We got there, and some time into the night I called his name to ask if he wanted a drink. Despite him being in hearing range, he ignored me.”
“I said it again, and this time he looked at me, gave me this pleading shrug, and then turned back to the TV. I didn’t get him a drink and just got myself one.”
“A while later, I said his name again, and he audibly sighed.”
“He told me that he wanted me to call him what I call him at home, to which I responded I would most certainly not be calling him what I call him at home. This was ALL in front of his parents by the way.”
“On the car drive home, I told him that I wasn’t going to call him goshujin-sama anymore because he can’t draw the line between fun playful couple stuff and his parents.”
“He has sulked for the past week and I don’t even know what to do.”
“Normally I would not even consider the possibility that I was wrong here, but he’s normally a very rational, reasonable, and respectful person.”
“I feel like I’m being gaslighted and don’t know what to do.”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors agreed OP was right to shut this down.
“He obviously has no profound understanding of Japanese and its culture despite being Japanese.”
“It seems to be a fun thing to him. I’d recommend to sit down with him in a calm minute and check how he came up with the goshusin-sama thing and why he thinks it’s appropriate to be called in front of others.”
“Also, tell him exactly why you feel bad about calling him like this in front of others and check whether he cares or doesn’t care about your feelings at all.”
“NTA – from a fellow Japanese learner, used to live some years over there, studying and working. Absolutely nobody calls anyone goshushin-sama. Would be hellish weird.”-Shunima
“NTA… but is he ok? He sounds like he’s regressing into a child like resistance. Like ‘call me Captain America!!’ And you agree because he’s a child and he’s having fun.”
“But this is a grown a** man wanting you to tell everyone something kind of intimate (my interpretation) it’s very weird.”-Romanbuckminster88
“Man, Japanese has so much subcontext and ‘rules’ based on the relations between people compared to western languages.”
“Direct English translation does not equal meaning. The husband probably sorta speaks Japanese on a technical level, but doesn’t really know ‘the rules’ of the context lol.”
“The direct translation is ‘honoured husband’, but really a proper translation would be ‘master’ lol.”
“And it’s super weird to use such a term outside of the bedroom – esp because the in-laws are native in Japanese lol.”
“They would be so weirded out. Someone needs to stop him before he traumatizes his parents. Or, maybe OP should agree only if her husband calls her ‘mistress’ in front of his parents? 🤔”-VeryAmaze
“NTA You are the one who is linguistically and culturally correct here. Go Shujin Sama or just Go Shujin is used when referring to someone else’s husband.”
“Shujin is used when talking about your own husband to someone else and when younger modern Japanese couples talk among themselves they either use their names with San, Chan or Kun or Anata (wife to husband) and Kimi (husband to wife).”
“Hell, if they have kids it’s not uncommon to call each other mother and father, which I find a bit creepy personally!”
“If you had called him Go Shujin Sama in front of his parents they may have been able to tell him right then and there that it was incorrect outside of an NHK Taiga drama.”
“But more likely they would think it’s your language mistake because you’re ‘not Japanese’ and say nothing – which would be no help to you.”
“Your husband is in the wrong in trying to make you do something which would be quite frankly embarrassing outside of your own home.”
“I don’t know why he’s being such a child about it but if I were to think of a darker reason I think he may have been looking forward to ‘impressing’ his parents with how subservient his wife is – not realizing that they wouldn’t have been impressed.”
“BY THE WAY – My Father in Law calls my Mother in Law ‘Oi!’ Older Japanese men aren’t exactly famous for being romantic with their wives!”-Celerycheesepeanuts
And Japanese people also showed up to throw in their two cents about why this was weird.
“NTA and I feel like you’re translating goshujinsama ‘literally’ in a way to not make your husband look like a total a**.”
“He’s ‘figuratively’ telling you to refer to him as ‘master’ like maids do in anime, in front of his parents.”
“Sure you can refer to someone else’s husband as their goshujin, but you typically don’t add sama to it in those cases either unless you’re using honorifics.”
“He’s being really weird and you’re correct to nip this in the bud if he’s going do demand you do it in front of his parents.”
“Hell if I have a son whose partner calls him goshujinsama while my wife or I are in the room I would be seriously raising my eyebrows to the point where I might actually successfully mimic The Rock.”-Monkipoonki
“I’m Japanese and we never ever would call our husbands goshujinsama. It might have been used generations ago but not anymore.”
“We also sometimes say ‘gosyujin’ to refer to someone’s husband in a formal setting. Some in the older generations use ‘syujin’ to refer to their own husband.”
“But in the younger generation we will definitely use other words like ‘Otto,’ as ‘syujin’ means master and implies that they are superior.”
“It’s just degrading. It’s a kink that only belongs in your own household.”-Best_Cryptographer22
“Bottom line – he should not be pressuring you to defer to him like that when you’re in front of his parents.”
“It was fine that he asked (although I think it’s weird, TBH), but he should have backed off when you said no.”
“Counseling might help, but, no, you’re definitely NTA.”-Arbor_Arabicae
“NTA. Without extensive research, I can’t be sure, but I believe this is a subservient reference. In private, when it’s just the two of you, I can see it.”
“You don’t mind it and it makes him feel good. But when he asked you to do that in front of his parents, that’s definitely wrong.”
“It’s as if he wants you to be the obedient housewife who defers to her husband.”
“You can try talking to him about it, but unless you’re certain you’re getting accurate answers, you might wish to consider couples counseling. It comes across as he has some issues.”-ArtistanPerspective
OP’s boundaries are just as important as her husband’s wants.
“NTA maybe I missed it but did you explain it wouldn’t be appropriate??”
“It would be helpful for him to understand the context and how he may think it’s funny but it’s actually a bit rude to be saying in front of his parents…”
“And it’s super annoying that bc he is ethnically Japanese he thinks that makes him an expert on the ins and outs of the culture despite never having lived there like you.”-BestestGoodest
“NTA My guess is you are right and he doesn’t get that it is as cringe as if you would call him daddy in front of his parents.”
“But honestly it was already a weird thing to start if for him it isn’t a playful thing. If he is sulking after a week, in his mind he had some kind of status taken from him. That’s not good.”-Lively_Sally
“NTA, is he somehow trying to impress his parents with his kink? Weird!”
“Since he is not fluent, is there a way you say it but add something to the effect of ‘and I, your even more honorable wife, you peasant!’ in Japanese?”
“At the very least, it may cause his parents to ask why you’re both being ridiculous and shut this thing down.”-JeepersCreepers74
“NTA. If you had said go-shujin (sama), they would either have recognised it as weeaboo weirdness, or understood it to be referring to your father-in-law, the only married male present who is not your husband. It never refers to your own husband.”
“You might see it on TV dramas used ‘incorrectly,’ because even though on screen they are talking to their husband, there’s some fourth-wall breaking going on, and it’s the audience who is listening to the words.”-Emotional-Ebb8321
OP and her husband will need to talk about this more and how their private life enters and exits their house with them.
Hopefully they will be able to find a consensus.