When 'Sweetie' becomes Issu, Issuwa

Dec 19 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

While many personality traits bother people, one that elicits a strong emotional reaction from many are references such as issuwa(her) or issufrom those closest to them.

These general representations not only lack affection and charm but we also use them when we are angry, disappointed or blaming someone. I am guilty of shifting from referring to people by their names to say issuwaor issuwhen I am mad at someone. We sometimes forget that identifying people by their names is a form of respect.

I have heard these references from spouses, friends, colleagues, and strangers during expressions of irritation or anger. For those in a romantic relationship, it always starts with affectionate references until they get married and start to refer to their spouse as issuwaand issu. People who are proud to shower their significant other with several romantic names no longer make an effort.

Such a cooling-off recently caused a big fight among relatives who live in California. After two years of visa processing, the woman joined her husband from Addis Abeba recently. It did not take them long to have a major fight that involved their families in Ethiopia. The cause of the disagreement is that her husband tends to address her differently when he is around with his friends and colleagues.

Her husband calls her anchi(you) and issuwawhen they are with others company and uses affectionate references when they are alone. This angered his wife. Thankfully the couple mended the relationship soon after as the husband apologised and promised to refer to his wife in the same loving way in front of others as he is doing when they are alone.

How we refer to someone influences how others perceive our attitudes towards a person. Whether we like it or not, perception holds so much meaning. What is often forgotten is that issuwaand issureferences degrade the person's value and reflect how we see them. Referring someone by their name establishes a tone of respect and affection.

I recently observed two of my newlywed friends shifting to non-affectionate designations, although they are not fighting about it like my relatives, perhaps because both are doing it. The loving and caring references have quickly vanished, especially in front of others. It did make me compelled to ask them individually what drove the change.

The husband said it was unintentional. But the woman justified her shift that her friends mock her as the one who loves the spouse the most and referring to him as issu has made her friends consider her spouse as the one who loves her the most. She is now considered in control of her emotions because she withdrew from her affectionate references to her husband.

The contrast between the two ways of referencing loved ones seems like a minor thing. Still, it reflects the lack of seriousness and dedication to appreciate one’s spouse or loved one in front of others, not just when they are alone. Such dynamics of a family also affects children as parents set examples. As a natural phenomenon, children hear their parents addressing their spouses in a certain way and, in turn, they start referring to the parents in the same impolite way.

Being addressed condescendingly by strangers might be tolerable, but not from a loved one. Of course, we can easily debate whether issuwa or issu references are not hurtful and undermining, but those who do it realise it is not nice when confronted by it. Most importantly, they do not like to be addressed as such.

The uniformity of a consistent behaviour reflects reliability and predictability. Romantic relationships involve the expectation of lasting affection, acceptance, validation, empathy, and reciprocal attitude. As they say, couples will grow to be similar over the years; hence it is for their benefit to nurture and uphold good characters that they both can harvest joy from.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 19,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1129]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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