The historical past of “Sweetie” and 8 various other conventional Terms of Endearment

The historical past of “Sweetie” and 8 various other conventional Terms of Endearment

The amount of tips we of handling each other in an endearing way is probably rather minimal.

After all, just what options are there if we bring fatigued the 3 lexical stalwarts of the semantic field—darling, precious, and love? If item in our love will be satisfied with the phrase of target we need, there has to be a shared feeling of the pleasurable; and judging by those items when you look at the number below, hardly any aspects of the lexicon be considered.

Style appears to be the prominent motif. We see in addition it during the eatables which are adapted to terms of target: Cinnamon, powsowdie, sucket, bag-pudding, cabbage, pumpkin, sugar, and lamb-chop. These are the attested circumstances. Most likely a lot more foodstuffs have actually an idiosyncratic or nonce usage than tend to be taped in OED content. Some seem to be affected by trend: kinds of seafood, like, were when attractive names, it can look, judging by whiting, sparling, and prawn. This appears unlikely nowadays, though proof my small codfish or suchlike would establish me personally completely wrong.

What is shocking may be the absence of lexical fields we may be prepared to read, particularly plants (aside from daisy). Doubtless nonce-usages of daffodil, tulip, etc occur, but plainly maybe not with sufficient volume become caught in the lexicographer’s web. Looks try similarly missing out on, besides colors in golpol, a reference towards eyes in nye and nykin, many examples regarding size (pug, fub, pinkany). Conduct try obvious by their lack, besides wanton.

A Chosen Schedule of Terms of Endearment


This mix of sweet (“lovely, pleasant, delightful”) c. 1290 and center (since the seat regarding the behavior) ended up being initially written as two phrase, a training that persisted in to the seventeenth millennium. Its generally put both for somebody with whom you’re in love and much more typically for everyone with whom you have an affectionate relationship; but considering that the nineteenth 100 years it offers developed ironic or contemptuous jargon uses, as seen in Frank Parrish’s book, Fire during the Barley (1977): “sample much harder, lover, or I’ll put you into the guts.”


The phrase is probably an amelioration of mop in its sense of “fool.” It actually was typically made use of whenever speaking with a child, specifically a female, alongside mops (1584) and moppet (1601), and relocated from there to the woman, specially certainly one of small prominence. Title within this feel remained preferred in dating sites for Professional adults north and eastern dialects of England, and consistently arrive occasionally in present-day literary works, though today it’s more prone to reflect a pejorative use (“a dowdy, filthy, or untidy girl”) that created into the seventeenth century. A witch in Harry Potter-world contains the identity of Mopsy.


This can be a man-to-man endearment, “fine other, my good people,” from French (beau coq—”fine cock’”). It absolutely was usually put sarcastically, as when Sir Toby Belch teases Malvolio, phoning your “my bawcock” (Shakespeare, Twelfth-night, c.1602, 3.4.112).

old thing

An expression with which has ameliorated with age. It absolutely was initially an expression of contempt or reproach aimed towards whoever had been practically older, typically discovered with demeaning adjectives (including “ugly old thing,” 1717). However in the nineteenth 100 years we see it combined with warmhearted adjectives (especially as “dear old thing,” 1852), and ultimately alone as an affectionate form of target to a person of every age.


The word is apparently a sixteenth-century pseudo-Italian creation, considering frisk, mentioning at first to a fast dancing activity. As a term of target, it’s tape-recorded in one single OED citation from playwright Richard Brome’s the brand new Academy (1.1.3) “Where’s my Boykin? my personal Frisco? my personal pleasure?”


An Irishism (from a chuisle, “heartbeat”), accustomed imply “darling, precious”—the a becoming a particle that presents the noun will be used to manage somebody. In Virginia Brodine’s unique, Seed for the flames (1996, ch. 13), about Irish immigrants in the usa, we see “Bridget, acushla, exactly how could it be along with you?” The early nineteenth 100 years furthermore saw macushla (from mo chisle, “my heartbeat”) utilized in in the same way.


The dominating real person application of prawn is unflattering in 1895, but there is however an individual OED citation indicating that, for a lot of at least, the noun could be an endearment. “we expect you’re a saucy younger prawn, Emma,” says a character in William Pett Ridge’s small Dialogues (1895).


Considering that sugar was tape-recorded in English through the thirteenth millennium, and frequently used figuratively and proverbially since that time, it’s astonishing the fashion to use the word as a phrase of address is apparently very little more than the 1930s. Among the a lot more popular ingredient terms since that time were sugar-babe and sugar-pie, but a wide range of possibility is present. A 2001 tune by Woody Guthrie begins: “Tippy tap toe, my personal small sugar plum.”


A woman in Ellis Lucia’s memoir, Klondike Kate (1962, ch. 2) try described as “quite a mutton chop.” It strains my creative imagination to think of lamb chops getting used for drive romantic address, but that’s among the many threats you adopt when you engage in thesaural lexicography.

Reprinted from TERMINOLOGY OVER TIME AND PUT: Exploring vocabulary through Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary by David amazingly with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright © David Amazingly 2014.