Terms of Endearment



Last night, while I was doing my usual beauty ritual before going to bed, my husband said: “You know what, sometimes I forget your name.”

I turned to look at him, a bit amused: “That’s a joke, right?’


Last night, while I was doing my usual beauty ritual before going to bed, my husband said: “You know what, sometimes I forget your name.”

I turned to look at him, a bit amused: “That’s a joke, right?’

“No, really… sometimes I forget your name, because I don’t call you by your name anymore. I always call you ‘yobo’ or ‘mahal ko’.” (‘Yobo’ is a Korean term for ‘honey’ and ‘mahal ko’ is ‘my love’ in Filipino.)

I raised an eyebrow. How can a husband forget his wife’s name?

“You don’t let me call you by your name. If I call you Chris, you will get upset, right?”

“Are you complaining, because you can’t call me by my name?”

“No, I just miss calling you ‘My lovely Chris’.”


‘My lovely Chris’… the name that started it all… the name he used to call me when he couldn’t admit that he was starting to have feelings for me. In return, I called him ‘My handsome Khan‘… the name that concealed the same feelings I was beginning to have for him, too. For years, we called each other those names, even after he proposed, but after our wedding, we began to call each other ‘mahal ko’.

One day, Abonim (father-in-law) heard me call my husband ‘mahal ko’. Perhaps, he didn’t know the meaning of the word, so he said that I should call my husband ‘yobo’, and never call him by his name (which I never did since we got married).

From then on, I have called my husband ‘yobo’. At first, it was just to please my parents-in-law who live with us. They seem delighted when they hear me call their son ‘yobo’. At times, I call my husband ‘mahal ko’ or ‘honey’, but my usual term of endearment for him is ‘yobo’. That word got stuck in my brain like my own name or his name. Even when I nag at my husband, sometimes I call him ’yobo’!

One day, I was so excited to tell him I have finally made up my mind on what new phone I am going to get that I shouted ‘yobo’ while he was trying to catch some sleep. He was startled. He thought that I was going to nag at him… again. You see, no matter what you call your better-half– ‘honey’, ‘sweetheart’, ‘darling’, ‘baby’, ‘love’, ‘yobo’, ‘mahal ko’, ‘chagiya’, ‘oppa’– if you don’t say it the right way, if you don’t say it and mean it to mean ‘I love you’ or ‘I care for you’ and ‘I call you this, because you are mine; you are important to me; I respect you’, the term of endearment becomes just a common term… the same as saying ‘Hey, you!’ or ‘Hey!’… someone, just anyone.


In South Korea, it is not common for a wife to call her husband by his given name, even if she’s older than him. Some wives call their husbands ‘yobo’ or ‘chagiya’ (darling). Some ‘oppa’ which is a polite Korean word used by females to call older male friends or older brothers, but is now often used in aromantic relationship when a Korean woman refers to her boyfriend or husband. I think my husband would be happier if I call him ‘oppa’, because it is more respectful (according to him), but personally, I don’t like the word ‘oppa’. It diminishes the significance of a term of endearment, as it has become more of a word (most) Korean women use ‘to sound cute to a man’ or a flirtatious, meaningless term articulated in the cutest or sweetest, sometimes most sensual tone.

One night, after watching an amateur Korean porn with my husband, where the woman kept saying ‘oppa’… ‘oppa’, I was inspired to use that word, so I tried to call him ‘oppa’. He made me practise how to say it properly, and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat each time I said it right, but I really hate that word.  I don’t know why, but I felt like throwing up everytime I said ‘oppa’, so that night, I made it clear to him that I would never ever call him ‘oppa’.

Last night, when my husband told me that he misses calling me ‘my lovely Chris’, I realized how I miss calling him ‘my handsome Khan’, too. We got used to calling each other ‘yobo’ or ‘mahal ko’ that sometimes the terms become so ordinary and feel so ordinary. We even have a song for our terms of endearment. When we call each other on the phone, we don’t say, “Hello” or “Yabuseyo” anymore. We chant ‘yobo’ or ‘mahal ko’ instead.

“Can I call you ‘my lovely Chris’ sometimes?”

“Of course, you can.”

“How about ‘Chris’?”

“Jugule?” (Do you wanna die?)

“Okay, my lovely Chris… jaja…” (Let’s sleep.)

“All right, my handsome Khan. Are you ready?”


Lights are turned off, and my ‘yobo’ and I slept serenely in each other’s arms.

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