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When I was learning about 持ってくる【もってくる】 in college we did some roleplaying to practice using it. When my turn came up it was a husband and wife, with a line along the lines of the following:

あなたはビールを持ってこい。

(Context: I was playing the husband, saying this to the wife, played by a fellow classmate.)

Deciding to use my broader vocabulary and try to make the dialogue sound more natural, I decided to try substituting お前 for あなた. This produced an extremely unpleasant look from my professor, with a request to see her in her office after class. Upon arriving in her office, the lecture basically amounted to "I don't know what kinds of things you read on your own time, but don't ever use that word again!"

Was I seriously misusing the word, was she overreacting, or was it a bit of both?

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Haha, you perfectly role-played the traditional Japanese husband... –  Ash Apr 8 at 18:21
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+1 Your anecdote gave me a good laugh. –  Earthliŋ Apr 8 at 18:33
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I would have said something like ねぇ、(おかあ(さん))、ビール持ってきなぁ! –  istrasci Apr 8 at 19:03
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That is no place to use a pronoun to begin with, regarless of the pronoun choice. –  l'électeur Apr 8 at 23:14
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It could be a place to use a pronoun, given the right context, like 俺はここに座ってるから、お前はビールをもってこい. I personally think your change makes the sentence a lot more natural, although maybe not very PC. It's pretty uncommon for a husband to address his wife as あなた. –  dainichi Apr 9 at 0:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Well, it actually would not be terribly common for a wife to call her husband お前 in the first place (at least in public), I think. The other way around seems perfectly believable to me though.

Anyways, in trying to understand why your professor may have been upset by that, all I can guess is that she considers お前 to be so jarringly incorrect for whomever you were saying it to (e.g., the professor herself), that even though you were roleplaying it would be considered going too far.

The word お前 itself is not like a swear word in English, it's regularly used (in specific circumstances, such as between close male friends) and kids in Japan hear it all the time (try watching an episode of ドラゴンボール), so I'm not sure why she said "but don't ever use that word again!". Maybe she just doesn't think that the class is ready to learn words which can only be used in specific social contexts.

Edit: Since you said it to a classmate (though I assume the rest of the class was listening and not practicing on their own?), I really think the professor overreacted, unless you really don't know this classmate well at all, or they are much older than you (i.e., anything that would cause お前 to be jarringly inappropriate even when roleplaying).

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Yeah, each pair was taking turns performing for the rest of the class. She was a new professor at the school that year, and this was my second or third class with her (modular system, so one class 5 days a week for a month), so the entire cohort of students was about the same age and point in their studies. Perhaps it was just that she didn't want to have to explain what I did at that point in the class. –  Kaji Apr 8 at 19:11
    
That could be why. Explaining what お前 means is probably something she wants to avoid anyways, simply because it would involve saying お前 a lot (which is not very lady-like). –  Darius Jahandarie Apr 8 at 19:23
    
I've also had Japanese teachers tell me to NEVER use certain words, when really they're quite fine in the right contexts. I'm not sure what causes this phenomenon. –  Sjiveru Apr 8 at 23:06

Just intended as a small remark: the use of お前 does by no means necessarily imply domestic violence, but domestic violence does definitely imply the husband referring to the wife as お前.

Maybe this puts it somewhat into perspective.

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