I Love You, My Little Elephant

Do you like when your significant other calls you “sweetheart”? What about when you mom calls you “baby”? Do you mind when a waitress calls you “sugar”?

A term of endearment is more commonly known as a pet name. They are used to refer to those for whom you have a great affection for- your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, your children, and even your friends. For example, my mom will still call me baby when I’m using a walker and placing my teeth beside my bed each night. And my boyfriends always end up with some funny, but cute, pet name, such as monkey or Pancho.

Calling those people pet names makes sense to me, but what about using terms of endearment for complete strangers? Waitresses are notorious for calling us sweetie-honey-baby-pumpkin-sugar, aren’t they? Just today, the lady who was checking me out at the store called me baby doll. Do older people tend to use terms of endearment more than younger people? Do people in the South use them more than people in the North? Are pet names different around the world?

Every time I visit the South, I hear pet names used more frequently and also more frequently by strangers. I also feel that older people use these names more often than us younger folk.

Have you ever been offended by being called a pet name? The owner of the garage I take my car to get fixed always calls me honey. Never fails. From the first time I met him, to every time I take my car there, he calls me honey. At first I thought he was being a smart-aleck, telling me I don’t know anything about cars (I don’t. But, I know my car is gray. Boom! I’m doing good!).  After taking my car there several times, I discovered that that’s just how he talks to everyone. I am no longer offended.

Sometimes I feel like I have to be a little defensive about my age. I feel that some people don’t take me seriously, because I’m a young professor. So when a stranger calls me sweetie or baby, I automatically want to start defending myself- “Hey! I am not a baby! I’m a big girl. I make my own money. I have a career. I pay my own bills. I’m I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.” Then it trails off into that  song featuring some rapper named Little Boosie. But….I digress.

Sweet foods are often used as pet names in the US- sugar, honey,   And food in general is used quite a bit, such as pumpkin, cupcake, sweetie pie. What about in other countries? What are common pet names there?

Would you appreciate being called an egg with eyes or tamago gata no kao. That’s what women are sometimes called in Japan since having an egg or oval shaped face is considered beautiful.

France has a few strange ones- you might get called a little cabbage (petit chou)  or a flea (ma puce).

Since elephants are considered lucky in Thailand, the term chang noi, or little elephant, might be whispered in your ear by your significant other.

I love that in the romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, etc.,  speakers used diminutives to show affection. A diminutive is when a word is made smaller, to show endearment. For example, in Spanish, mi abuelita, means my dear grandmother. Amorito literally means little love but is something like honey. It is usually done by adding the “ita” or “ito” to the end of a word.  I wish it was more common to do this in English, because I think it’s charming!

Let me know your thoughts on pet names.  It seems to be pretty divisive!  As always, please share on your social media if you thought this was interesting. Until next time, my little flea!


2 thoughts on “I Love You, My Little Elephant

  1. Very nice. I don’t think anyone has talked about this. I mean, sure someone has but I haven’t come across anything recently.

    I have to admit I fell into this habit when I taught little children. So every student of mine is ‘dear’. I know, I know! Don’t roll your eyes! And I still use it when my teenage students which is funny because Dear can be a Thai nickname and that might be confusing. 555

    That being said, I don’t mind pet names 🙂

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