A few days ago I came across the following sentence in a book I am reading:
우리 부부가 그동안 땀을 흘린 보람으로 마침내 내 집을 마련하게 되었습니다.우리 부부 literally means "our husband and wife," but I translated it as "my wife and I" since "our husband and wife" does not make sense in English. Of course, if it were the wife speaking, I would have had to translate it as "my husband and I." Using 우리 부부 as it was used in the above sentence may be common in Korea, but I think it was used incorrectly. Also, notice that the writer wrote 내 집 (my house) instead of 우리 집 (our house). Why did it change from 우리 to 내? Was the writer using 우리 부부 to refer to her husband or to his wife?
During that time, after much sweat, my wife and I finally got our own house.
I think the writer should have written 남편과 (my husband and I) or 아내와 (my wife and I) in the above sentence instead of 우리 부부가, which should be used only when referring to a group of married people. For example, if you went on a trip with other married couples, you could refer to your group as "우리 부부."
Likewise, I think 우리 마누라 should be used only when a group of friends refer to their wives as a group, not to one individual wife. For example, wouldn't the following sentence make sense?
우리 늦으면 우리 마누라가 혼내겠다.Koreans may not say the above sentence with the meaning I wrote, but why not?
If we are late, our wives will give us a hard time.
I think it is possible that sometime in the past Koreans confused the meanings of 우리 마누라 and 우리 부부 and have been confusing them ever since.
I looked up "우리" in my Korean-Korean dictionary and one of the definitions was as follows:
2 [관형사적 용법] '나의'의 뜻으로 쓰는 말. ¶ -- 나라. / -- 어머니. / -- 마누라.Notice that it said that one meaning of 우리 was "나의," which means "my." Nothing was said about it meaning "our," which is the plural of "my." So, does that mean that when Koreans say "우리 나라" and "우리 학교," they are actually saying "my country" and "my school," not "our country" and "our school"? According to the dictionary, 우리 can mean either "we" or "my," but not "our." Does that make sense?
So, if 우리 means "my" in Korean, what is the Korean for "our"?
The definition for "our" in my Korean dictionary is "우리들의" or "우리의." Therefore, here is a summary of what my dictionaries say:
- my country - 우리 나라
our country - 우리의 나라
- my mother - 우리 어머니
our mother - 우리의 어머니
- my wife - 우리 마누라
our wives - 우리의 마누라
Korea's dictionaries may be describing the current reality of the language, but it seems clear to me that the original meaning of 우리 has been corrupted. I think it is ridiculous to have to put 의 after 우리 to clarify the meaning of "our." If 내 can mean both "I" and "my," then "우리" should also be able to mean both "we" and "our," not "we" and "my."
Koreans need to admit that the word 우리 has been corrupted and start a nationwide campaign to use the correct meaning. The first step should be to remove the "my" definition of 우리 from Korean dictionaries.
By the way, according to the dictionary definition of 우리, the translation of 우리 부부 should, therefore, be "my husband and wife." It sounds like some kind of weird threesome.