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Don’t Call Me Baby!



“What are your thoughts on the use of pet names and terms of endearment within relationships? Which ones are appropriate, and when is it time to start using them?”

– Stacey, in response to CALLING ALL LOVELY LADIES

Nancy Fagan-Murphy, the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Romance”, declares that nothing is more endearing than the first time your partner calls you by a pet name. The book may be an earnest attempt to aid the amorously inept but surely the publishers are having a little joke with us? Is it just me or does romance generally tend to create… complete idiots? While I don’t think this appellation is quite what Stacey is referring to, it nevertheless highlights the fact that when considering the use of pet names in a relationship common sense and other generally accepted rules of social conduct tend to fly out the window.

So what is it exactly that makes them so darn endearing? Pet names usually demonstrate reaching a level of comfort in the relationship which some wish to celebrate. Additionally, pet names may signal a new stage of commitment as, along with hand-holding, an arm around the waist, and matching t-shirts, announces to society at large “They’re mine- back off”- or, for the less cynical, “They’re mine- and I am just so happy about it I want to shout it to the world”. And finally, when somebody behaves in any way that you know is meant for you and you alone, it has been known to brings on a case of the tinglies for those who are in an already fragile and emotional state due to the aforementioned ‘idiot romance syndrome’- quite simply, it makes you feel special.

As for which ones are appropriate, my extreme aversion to schmaltz makes this a very difficult discussion for me but I will try and be objective in the name of scientific journalism. So after extensive sociological and anthropological research I have devised five major classifications of pet names: Traditional, Cutsie, Anatomical, Joking and Generic.

Traditional: This includes such classic movie reminiscent terms as sweetheart, sweetie, darling (although not to be used together unless you want to sound like a character from Ab.Fab), honey, ma cherie, princess, or angel. Having in all likelihood grown up hearing your parents refer to each other or, indeed, you by these names it may take you a little (awkward) while to reclaim them for personal use with your beloved.


Michelle calls Barack 'Pumski'

Michelle calls Barack 'Pumski'

Cutsie: A rather popular category but has the unfortunate consequence of making you sound as if you are talking to a baby. May build trust by banishing all form of self-consciousness or inhibition but a sure passion-killer. Such examples are schnookums, boo boo, pumpkin pie, snugglebunny, cuddle cakes, and pookie. Be warned, if you are using these particular terms of endearment you are probably still in the first flush of romance when everything the other person does is at once utterly adorable to you- and enormously sickening to all others around you.

Anatomical: Sexy bum, hot legs, luscious lips, hooty mcboob… From those I have interviewed I have determined that, while these may be the most stimulating, the general consensus is that they belong strictly in the privacy of the bedroom and are not for public consumption. Particularly if the anatomical pet name is in fact a pet name for a specific part of the anatomy… While I personally find the cutsie names immeasurably more offensive to my delicate ears, it is best to keep these terms out of earshot of, say, your parents, students, children, or anyone else you wouldn’t want repeating it to their therapist.


Ugly Betty's Molly calls Daniel 'RJ' (short for Rich Jerk)

Ugly Betty's Molly calls Daniel 'RJ' (short for Rich Jerk)

Joking: For those of you who balk at the idea of suddenly calling someone by terms that are completely foreign to you, you may feel more comfortable using tongue in cheek names instead. While they may sound derogatory or offensive, and therefore completely inappropriate, they usually have some sort of back story which has special significance for you and you partner. Besides, the very fact that is coming from someone who loves you means that it can retain the affectionate implication- without making you sound like a cartoon character. Such fondly mocking names may include stinky-bum, butthead, cookie monster, grump-bucket, or old goat.

Generic: One word. Babe. Why do I hate it? It’s not romantic, it reminds me of a very cute and intelligent pig, but a farmyard animal nonetheless, or- worst of all- a muscle bound, intellectually challenged, Malibu jock throwing his arm around his cosmetically enhanced, bleached blonde, bikini wearing… well, babe! And that is all I am going to say on this topic.

Even following MY idiot’s guide to pet names, you should be aware of a number of common pitfalls. Firstly, before you experience that warm glow that accompanies the recognition that you occupy a unique place in your lover’s affections, make sure that it is indeed unique. One friend I spoke to said she loved it when her husband called her ‘darling’ until she realised that his continental, not to mention theatrical, upbringing meant that he referred to everybody this way. Another hazard is making the mistake of thinking that men love adorable nicknames as much as girls do. It may come as a surprise to hear that few men actually appreciate being referred to as kitten or boo boo. Why not try butching it up a bit for them and use Tiger, Cowboy or Stud instead? They may not want to be referred to as ‘precious’- but their egos sure are.

There are many different types of pet names, reasons for using them, and appropriate occasions to do so, but they can be as individual as you are. As long as you are sensitive to those around you there are really no hard and fast rules.

Except one. And it’s a big one. I hope you are listening carefully because there is one name you should never, ever use.

Your Ex’s.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Stacey permalink
    01/09/2010 17:37

    Brilliant! The wittiest blog yet! Loved it and it answered my question well! I will try some of them out and let you know if I have any success! 😉

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