Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Hush or blush

I love private terms of endear-ment, they’re great fun. But I would never ever reveal most of them in public – they would promptly become blushingly embarrassing rather than amusingly intimate. The same goes for hearing other couples’ love-names.

My loved one and I have all sorts of private pet-names but mostly they stay firmly private. The only one I would use publicly is the essentially descriptive “sweetheart” and even then only in a sympathetic gathering.

You can speculate furiously but my lips are sealed over the others. At least we like them all, unlike some pet-names that one partner or the other hates with a vengeance and tolerates with gritted teeth.

The most loathed term among women is supposedly babe or baby, closely followed by baby girl, baby doll, pudding and pumpkin. As for terms like sweetcheeks, snookums and muffin, I can’t imagine who could actually use them with a straight face.

Then there’s the question of how you refer to your loved one in the first place. Personally we loathe the words husband and wife and the negative associations they still carry, so they’re used strictly as a standing  joke. We prefer partner, but some people dislike the corporate overtones.

“This is my man/woman” is apparently common in Scotland and Italy. “Lover” was modish at one time but seems to have lost favour. “Boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are still popular though strangely innocent-sounding in an age of sexual licence. “Spouse” is horribly formal and somehow vaguely insulting. “Cohabitee” sounds oddly clinical. One of my blogmates refers to her Significant Other.

Or you can just be super-subtle and say “This is Natalie” or “This is Damien” , leaving the assembled company to investigate the exact nature of the relationship for themselves.

As for extra-marital couplings, let’s not even go there. Though I always had a secret hankering to refer casually to my concubine. And watch people’s faces.


  1. We have always used the term, 'Honey' with each other. It doesn't bother me when people use pet names in public. Though I'd have trouble keeping a straight face if I heard someone being called 'Snookums' or any of those others.

  2. Jenny would have your head if you called her a concubine, I bet. Unless you did it in a funny way and were both in on it before it was done...perhaps a future blog post?

  3. Bijoux: Yes, honey's a nice one. I could keep a straight face with that one, but Snookums - I'd be tittering like a schoolgirl.

    e: Oh, I didn't mean I'd call Jenny that. I meant if I had a mistress. Which I can assure you I don't!

  4. I love it when Alex calls me "my girl"

    this is such a funny post, i love your qualifying of the various terms :-)


  5. "The current Mr / Mrs Whatever" always cracks me up.
    Mainly for the looks on other people's faces.

  6. It is so long since I had an 'other' that I have no idea what I would like to be called.

  7. Leah: I think you like the really girly epithets! I know, there aren't many terms that are free of slightly dubious overtones.

    Macy: I've never heard that formula over here. Most amusing!

    Grannymar: No worries, my little chickadee.

  8. i know a dude who introduces his wife (of about 60 years) as "my first wife": that one is funny.

    a third party is always, in my mind, a lover.

    husband/ wife is fine by me and i have often thought that my husband is quite good at the whole "husbandry" thing: works hard, cares for the house etc but in no way can he be called my partner or significant other or better half.

    as for pet names, i like babe but not when it morphs to "bub"

  9. Kylie: My first wife, I like that!

    Yes, the term "my better half" is cringingly unfunny. It might have been amusing when it was first coined 100 years ago....

  10. John: Tiger Tits, eh? Sorry, but I'm embarrassingly flat chested. I have to stick socks in my bra....

  11. Inasmuch as my husband is 14 inches taller than I am, I am always going to be "the little woman." I prefer "Pudd'n'."

  12. Murr: Fourteen inches? I didn't realise he was that tall! And I hope "Pudd'n" is meant VERY ironically.

  13. We Indians have solved this problem in a very clever way. The husband would call his wife "so and so's mother" and the wife would call her husband, the equivalent of "listen'!
    Before you ask the obvious question, before the child arrives, the husband would call his wife as the equivalent of "dear"

    Those were the days.

    Now the urban Indians are as screwed up as the Westerners calling each other anything that comes to mind.

  14. I am totally partial to the Newfoundland "Comfort" which I have blogged about.

    It says it all and so beautifully.


  15. Ramana: That all sounds quite bizarre. But some standardised descriptions would come in handy, instead of the numerous possibilities we have at the moment.

    www: That's assuming the person IS a comfort of course, and not a pain in the neck....

  16. I'm on hiatus and periodically lurking, but I HAD to comment. Honey is good, as are sweetie, sweetheart, babe, baby doll. I routinely referred to my old boyfriend as baby and he called me that or another endearment or a private pet name. Another former boyfriend always called me Sugar, and another Bunny. They are just tender expressions. I don't see the problem with it and I think the writer of that article has issues.

    That said, I live in an area (The American South) where endearments are a way of life. I'm routinely called baby or sweetheart or honey by my patients, cashiers, strangers who I hold a door for, and so on. It's just what we do. I call virtually all children sweetie or punkin' or some such. We just consider it friendly.

  17. Agent: So, someone else who doesn't mind babe or baby doll. Beware of surveys! Sugar is a nice one.

    Endearments to strangers are pretty common in Britain too. Love, darling and sweetheart in particular. Though it's more a working class/ tradespeople thing.