Saturday, December 2, 2017

Terms of Endearment

This Blog Was Written by 
Lisa Ye 

What is it called when someone calls someone else by an exclusive nickname? Growing up in a family where my parents do not call each other by any nickname made me wonder why and when does one decide to call their partner by a nickname. When I was a child, I remember seeing on television, incidences where two partners address each other using some of the following words: honey, babe, baby and sweetheart. 

Terms of endearments are defined as words or phrases (such as nicknames) employed to others to either address or describe, it is meant to evoke positive feelings. They are often used by people to express affection. Nicknames often act as placeholders with positive connotation in replace of given names for people. Some examples include: boo, sweetheart, babe, baby, honey and darling. Vast majority of terms of endearment come from either having no etymological resemblance or they are related to food, animals, royalty, and child. Some examples of food nicknames would be honey, cupcake and sugar. Some examples of animals that may be used as nicknames include chick, bunny, duckling, and mouse. Nicknames derived from animals tend to be less common and food related ones tend to be more common. Another group of terms of endearment come from royalty. These terms include princess, queen and king. Finally, there is a group of terms that come from the origin of a child such as baby and babe. 

When I was younger, I remember an older woman telling me that I was a sweetheart. I didn’t question that because it seemed like a common thing to call someone; I interpreted it as her calling me a sweet/kind-hearted person. What boggles my mind is when someone calls another person baby. If someone calls you baby, are they actually calling you a baby? I guess it is possible that sometimes one is literally calling another person a baby…

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "baby" was first used as a romantic term of endearment in Aphra Benh’s 1694 novel, Love-letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister. It has a positive connotation in that it is used to describe something gentle and kind. Surprisingly enough, it isn’t just English speakers that call each other baby. Chinese people and French people call each other baby in their own language: baobei and bébé. As a culture, we have defined baby as an acceptable loving nickname for a partner.

Have you ever been called by an odd nickname? If so, would you mind sharing the nickname and whether or not you felt comfortable with it?

According to many traditions, there is great power in naming things which might cause more harm than good. The usage of terms of endearment is universal but the terms of endearment are not universal. In Japan, they do not address each other as honey. If they did, there would be a laughing fit waiting to happen! The most common way for Japanese couples to address each other is by their given names. American people take on nicknames and only address their partner by their actual given name when they are arguing or being serious. Nicknames are a kind of cue to intimacy. When couples stop using these names, it is often an indication of a lack of intimacy.

Here are some examples of terms of endearments found around the world.

Words and meanings evolve overtime. A perfect example of this is the term bully. The term bully used to have a different meaning. When the term bully is used, no one would think of it as a term of endearment. However, in the past, it was used as a term of endearment! Bully has Dutch and German roots which evolved from the words for lover and friend. Also, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was a term of endearment that was first applied to either sex but later applied to men only; meaning that one is a fine fellow. Later, the term branched into a bunch of negative and aggressive meanings; the meanings that we are most common with today. 

The most recent term of endearment that I have heard is bae. This is another example of how words can change meanings overtime.  In the 1500s, the word bae was used to refer to sheep sounds but nowadays is used as a term of endearment for one’s boyfriend or girlfriend or just as an adjective in general. Some people say that it is an acronym that stands for “before anyone else”. Others argue that it is a simplified version of babe with the b getting dropped. 

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher at Rutgers University believes that all things are connected to the science of love and believes in the process of giving someone a special name would be somehow related to how your parents give children nicknames. It is just a human way of expressing love. People might change their voice by addressing you in a higher pitch when speaking to a romantic partner or a baby. When one changes their tone of voice when talking to you, this can indicate that you are special to them.  

What is your take on nicknames/terms of endearment? Do you find them to have a purpose?


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