From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

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?’

“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. 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 anyway 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’ or even his/her own name– 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. As my husband always tells me: “Say it softly. Don’t call me yobo when you’re angry or pissed off.” (Ugh! Why is intonation so important in Korea?)


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. To do so would be rude, very rude, especially in front of the husband’s parents or friends. Some wives in Korea 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 a romantic 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’, (Who says Koreans don’t make porn?) 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’. I don’t want to be ‘cute’ or ‘sensual’ when I call him, I want to be sincere and loving.

Last night, when my husband told me that he misses calling me ‘my lovely Chris’, I realized how I also miss calling him ‘my handsome Khan’. 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. (Yea, the crazy things you do for love that give others goosebumps.^^) When we call each other on the phone, we don’t say, “Hello” or “Yabuseyo. We chant “yobo, yobo” or “hal ko, hal ko” (short for ‘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.


17 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment

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  3. How do you pronounce “yobo”? I have been searching for a new term to call my husband other then “babe”. Especially when we are around my sister and her boyfriend… she calls him babe too, and it gets confusing. Plus he has always been a fan of Korean culture and movies so it seems appropriate. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Hi, MalaaDalmatinka! ^^ Thank you for following my blog and taking time to message me. I have been so busy that I couldn’t reply to most of the messages I received from November. We just started a business in the Philippines and it’s what has taken up most of my time. Just like you, I try to use my “inner loving voice” whenever I call my husband honey… but we’ve been married for 4 years now, so sometimes when I call him to eat and he’s still at the computer, I lose my patience and holler “yobo” at him. He’s gotten used to that, but he still reminds me to “speak softly” at times.


  5. Dear Lovely Chris, 🙂 By now, you probably received three email notifications for my three comments I left on your blog. I just really enjoy reading it. In any case, I agree with your post here… It’s quite about “intonation”. I feel it changes the mood for the day, depending on which intonation we use around each other in the morning or at night. My fiance used to tell me (whenever I would use a loud, funny, serious, or whatever voice I sometimes use in random situations) “Say it softly, honey”… “I always speak softly to you, even when I say goodnight or good morning, because I know it will conjure good dreams and good thoughts for your day”…. ❤ Oh for the love of love! I couldn't help but agree with him, and now I use my inner loving voice whenever we speak ❤


  6. Thank you, Ideasman88. ^^ Have a great weekend. =)


  7. Hi, Stephanie. =)

    Most Korean men would like their wife “not to call them by their name”. It’s a sign of respect to the husband, and you know how Koreans give soooo much value on respect. As for Korean BF’s, this isn’t the case. When hubby was my BF, he didn’t mind if I called him “Khan” (his English name which is not actually English ^^) once in a while; however, I was advised by another Korean friend, someone older and sort of like hubby’s eldest brother, not to call my husband-then-fiance by his name when we meet his parents before the wedding. He said that would be impolite (to my husband-to-be). Well, I guess, it all depends on the couple or their families, or maybe it was because we were already engaged. Most of the Korean couples I’ve met have terms of endearment they call each other in front of their friends and families, but one couple, both my friends and former tutees, call each other by names. They said terms of endearment give them goosebumps, but you know what, when I met them the first time, (about 7 years ago) I heard the man call the woman “honey” sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When you always call someone by his pet name, I suppose it’s either you forget his real name or you feel weird calling him by his real name. Thanks for sharing, Bittersweet. =)


  9. Super Like this post! ^^ Sweet “Kakakilig” 🙂


  10. I used to call my korean ex-bf “oppa” (we were together for 5 years). It was something he asked me to do since the beginning of our relationship. I got so used to calling him “oppa” that whenever I tried to call him by his real name, it felt weird. Like I was calling a completely different person and not him.


  11. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post (as I do with all your posts!!)

    I don’t like calling my boyfriend “oppa” either — sometimes, I do it to be annoying (like if we see it done cutely on TV), but I (like you) feel gross? saying it… especially since so many people say it to be cute/flirty. xP bleh! My boyfriend also says that he thinks it sounds weird? when non-Korean girls say it too…

    Question for you — the not calling your hubby by his name, is that something AFTER marriage? My boyfriend tells me not to call him “honey” or “jagi” in front of his parents. I think kind of like how we don’t do any PDA in front of his parents too? Does that change after marriage? (Both make sense!)


  12. One of the best posts I read on how close a couple can be to each other.


  13. Hi, Anastassia. ^^ I would like to know what ‘baby’ is in Spanish. =)

    Here in SK, it’s different. If I call my husband by his name and his friends or his family hear it, it’s very rude and they will think that I am disrespectful to my husband. ^^


  14. You know, come to think of it, I do not call my husband by his name either, and he doe snot call me by my name. We also come from different countries. I am Russian and he is Mexican, but we do not even do what you guys do. I do not use any special word in spanish (I do speak Spanish fluently) and he does not uses no special word in Russian (but he does not speak a word of Russian either 🙂
    BUt we made up our own special name. We call each other baby (but we do not pronounce it in English we pronounce it in SPanish… ). So only time I hear my husbnad call me by my name is when we somewhere in public and he is trying to get my attention…. 🙂


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