Oh hey there, sugar. Nice of you to stop by. Would it be okay if I called you “pumpkin?” (Is it more cringey when romantic pet names like these are used with casual acquaintances, or when used in earnest by real romantic couples?) Wouldn’t it be more fun if Americans just co-opted the word “poppet?” And what does it say about our generational divide that “beau” has morphed into “bae?”
Those are mostly rhetorical questions, but it turns out there’s a somewhat scientific reason why people use terms of endearment to speak to their loved ones. As Florida State University neuroanthropologist Professor Dean Falk explained to Broadly, baby talk plays an important role in language acquisition for infants, especially in terms of mother-child bonding. Falk believes adult baby talk is really just a way of drawing on those early feelings of love.
In an even more obvious sense, romantic pet names create little idiosyncratic worlds of intimacy for people. This seems to work, or at least correlate with stronger bonds between couples. Carol Bruess and Judy Pearson conducted a study of 154 couples in 1993. Generally speaking, the results supported the notion that satisfied couples used more “idioms” than unsatisfied couples, and that the couples who used the most idioms were usually the childless ones who had been married for less than 5 years.
But don’t worry — romance doesn’t have to steadily die over time. To keep your relationship exciting, try these foreign terms of endearment with your snuggle-buns.
Mon petit chou (French)
Literally, “my little cabbage.” Alternatively, ChouChou.
“Mousebear.” You can call someone Maus, or you can call someone Bär. But why not just call them Mausebär?
Tamago gata no kao (Japanese)
“Egg with eyes.” This is a very nice compliment to pay a woman you love, because oval-shaped faces are considered very beautiful in Japan.
“Passion.” How’s that for raising the stakes?
“Little licorice candy.” This, of course, depends on how much you enjoy licorice.
Microbino mio (Italian)
“My little microbe.” In other words, a diminutive to the extreme.
Chang noi (Thai)
“Little elephant.” Kind of an oxymoron, but you get the idea.
Media naranja (Spanish)
“Half an orange.” In the sense that this person is your “other half.”
“Breadcrumb.” If you ever go to Finland, you will probably hear this a lot.
Mon saucisson (French)
“My little sausage.” You’re…welcome?
“Most honored poison of my heart.” You’re not kidding!
Translates to something like “sweetiepie,” but this word is actually a diminutive form of lapa, which means “paw.”
There’s no real translation for this one. We just liked it because it sounds like “Snooki.”