언니 as a Tension Breaker

slowlikemolasses

Senior Member
English - US
Dave and Nina have known each other since their amiable meeting through mutual friends several months ago. They meet again.
Dave: I don't remember if I asked but, do you have a boyfriend?
Nina: 왜? Are you trying to ask me out?
Dave: 아이고! 언니! 안돼!

Is this a possible acceptable use of 언니?
 
  • Rance

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Two things look awkward to me.
    One thing is a guy calling a woman 언니.
    If he's implying to treat him like one of same sex, maybe it can be used as tension breaker.
    (If he's very feminine, makes more sense)
    But it sounds quite uncommon approach.
     

    esue

    New Member
    Korean
    In conclusion, 언니 cannot be used as a tension breaker especially by a man. 누님 can never never be a substitute.

    I think this conversation is very unlikely in the following senses.

    1. As Rance points out, a guy says "언니." A man might say 언니 in rare occasions like:
    1-a. He is talking to a waitress or a salesclerk. He calls her 언니 because he cannot find any other title. The woman would be in her twenties and he can be either about her age or older. A younger guy might call her 누나, not 누님. 누님 is usually reserved for gigolos if she is not his real elder sister. Anyway, 언니 is not such a appropriate term for a man to use.

    1-b. The guy is taking a role of a female. Even in this case, calling 언니 is somehow showing one's less respectful attitude towards the listener. That's why it can be used for a service person.

    2. 언니 cannot be a tension breaker unless somebody came up with a new usage, either for fun or for convenience.

    3. A girl or a woman can call another woman older by a few years 언니 when they are well-acquainted or under mutual agreement. One should sometimes be careful because not everybody calls her seniors 언니 or wants to be called 언니 by others. They can call service people 언니 like they call middle-aged service people 아줌마 or 아주머니.

    4. It's been only a few years since 언니 began to be widely used. It is a very casual term, sometimes demeaning. A man like Dave should never say 언니 in front of a lady like Nina that used to be his date.
     
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