I must say, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d love to ask you what your name is but quite frankly, there’s not much point. It won’t last long around here. With all due respect to your parents and the hours they spent painstakingly trawling through baby name books, consulting aunties, friends, loved ones deciding the perfect name for their bundle of joy. Much like a modern day Shakespeare *ahem* I pose the question ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.‘ I may not be crying your actual name from a balcony confessing my love for you but i will certainly shout “Honey, Honey, where for art thou Honey“.
A term of endearment is defined as ‘a word or phrase used to address or describe a person, animal or inanimate object for which the speaker feels love or affection.’ As lovely as your name is, what could be lovelier than a name tailored to you from a person that has nothing but love for you? And speaking as a Savile Row worthy tailor there’s nothing I love more than picking the perfect pet name. That’s all part of the fun you see, deciding if someone is a “sweetie”, a “boo”, a “bubsy”, a “sis” or even the timeless classic, a word used by women in every corner of the English speaking world… “babe”.
The power of “babe”. I love “babe”. Our connection can be paper thin and “babe” will roll off my tongue with ease. I will “babe” the person serving me at the checkout. I will “babe” the woman that just bumped in to me when assuring her that it’s “all good”. I will “babe” the super helpful man calling from my energy provider. I will “babe” you ’til the cows come home. The most powerful use of “babe”? Drunk, in the ladies loo during that sweet spot right before wasted but just after tipsy. Our game of babe bingo begins in the ubiquitous queue for loo when personal space goes out the window. It continues when addressing the benevolent toilet attendant, when negotiating who’s peeing first out of you and your cubicle companion. Babe is intimate but also distant, it bridges the gap between you and a stranger just enough for them to know you’re not quite a friend but at the very least you’re an ally.
This brings me to my favourite tier of pet names, the names dished out to our nearest and dearest. The ones that pull on our heartstrings, the ones that are getting the longest, tightest squeezes when we get out of quarantine. I love how creative we can get. Growing up, a friend’s Mum would refer to her exclusively as “Peach” and as much as that would mortify her in the playground it was only ever delivered with the love that only a Mum can give. It resonated with me so much i might steal it for the day I get to choose a pet name for my very own bundle of joy. My love of pet names is so evident you could easily
track our relationship on a simple exponential graph, the more I love you the less I use your name.
The man I love and have loved for the best part of my adult years knows this all too well. He knows that I will gladly call him “honeyboo” without even the tiniest shred of irony (or dignity). Our casual use of puke-worthy pet names was highlighted when we found ourselves in a tiny gas station in Carthage, Missouri a few years ago on a road trip of a lifetime. After spending some time browsing the snacks and trinkets on offer, the shop assistant remarked with a misty eyed look full of admiration “Y’all talk be talking to each other so nice”. It’s hard to say if she was won over by our oh so charming British accents or if the generous sprinkling of “baby” “honey” and “love” had her heart skipping
a beat. It was not our intention to sound like something out of a Jackie Collins romance novel but I guess you don’t get to choose your love language, it chooses you.
My friends are certainly on the receiving end of some of my most creative work, chucking in a few TOEs (terms of endearment) means that even the tamest conversations get a little je ne sais quoi, some extra spice if you will. If you commit enough to the process your group chats end up walking the line between total gibberish and genius poetry. I urge you to do the same, especially in the current climate where expressing our love through the words we type or utter on a video call are more poignant than ever, go for it call your bestie ‘boothang’ or your girlfriend ‘sugar’. They’ll appreciate, and so will I.