Terms of Endearment (Let Me Call You Sweetheart?)

It happened to me yesterday. It’s been some time so, well… I noticed. Jump-out-of-my-skin sort of notice. The ripple of goose bumps and the internal dialogue that echoes eeewwwwww all the way home.

Humphrey BogartHe deared me. Someone I hardly know. As usual when that occurs, my (apparently) strange antisocial response is to be very annoyed. Gag-me annoyed.

Just as I am when certain other terms of endearment are hurled, spoken, or even whispered in my direction.

As for the “D” word?

I hate it. I’ve always hated it. Especially if it comes from a stranger, or someone my own age, or worse – younger! What’s up with that? And in the workplace, to say Dear to a woman? Bad form, unless you’re joking around with a colleague and doing your sarcastic “Yes Dear” mockery of… somebody. (But hey, that’s irritating, too.) And calling me Sweetheart? Only acceptable if it’s a Bogie imitation.

Then there’s the rampantly running ruination of “Honey.” A perfectly nice word, a delicious accompaniment to many a recipe, but not my cup of tea (unless in a cup of tea).

No one ever calls me Honey, more than once. And if you hit me with “baby?” I’ll hit you back with banana cream pie.

Sugar Pie Honey Bunch

When it comes to the linguistic charm department, my reasons are my own, but generally I find certain terms to be overused, and tinged with a demeaning or patronizing tone. Perhaps that’s what poisoned their usage – for me – when it comes to lighter and more luscious love fare.

Now, lest you think I’m a total sourpuss, I adore many other possibilities, including a few that might surprise you. Among them:

  • Sweetie, Sugar, Sugar Pie
  • Darlin’, Darling
  • Chérie, Chérie Amour
  • Peaches, Cutie, Cupcake
  • Muffin, Love Muffin, Squeeze Muffin
  • Sweet Pea, Sweet Thing
  • Sweet Cheeks, Sweet Lips
  • Sugar Lips, Cherry Lips
  • Chickadee, Chica, Chicklet

Come on. Admit it. There’s more than a cup full of sugar in that list. In fact, it’s one overflowing platter full of gooey, gag-a-licious terms of endearment. Shouldn’t it be sufficient to wipe four measly words off the slurpy slate of love? And ooooo, what’s not to salivate about Love Muffin? Sugar Pie? Cherry Lips? Peaches?

HoneyDon’t you want to nibble, or at least turn up the heat and bake?

Of course, the fact that the BIG FOUR (Dear, Sweetheart, Honey, Baby) make me bristle could be cause for correlation to my current non dating status.


Food Groups? Cute Animals?

Are private terms of endearment always part of the recipe for L-O-V-E? Any terms filled with spice and nice that you crave, that melt your heart, that heat your hunger for a hottie?

Are some terms reserved only for Great Aunt Mable?

What about those long married couples who refer to each other as “Mother” or “Father” in front of their grown children and grandchildren? Shudder.

What words drive you up the wall, especially if they’re uttered by strangers?


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  1. says

    Non-romantic arena – “sir” from some young associate in customer service – ugh!

    Romantic arena – stay away from the sugary stuff. I adore a woman who just calls me “Steve.”

  2. says

    I like really creative nick-names, made up just for that person. Or ethnic ones, like adding the “ala” to names as in the Yiddish, or “ita” as in Spanish.
    I HATE being called Honey or any of that crap.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Yep. Been hearing that one all too long. I do know it’s a regional thing, but… UGH. (Doesn’t it make you feel like a crone??)

  3. says

    No one ever calls me Honey, more than once. And if you hit me with “baby?” I’ll hit you back with banana cream pie.

    Oh honey dear, I am the guy who does exactly what I am told not to do. Or maybe it is because I like the taste of banana cream pie.

    I hate hearing “no offense.” Don’t preface the insult or criticism with that. I know that it is being said because you know that I will be insulted/offended.

    If you have the strength to insult me than do so without the foolish and useless modifier.

  4. says

    I hate the Big Four, too. Gives me the willies. Previous boyfriends have tried … and I’ve had to fight the urge to puke. Luckily, my husband understands. Occasionally, he calls me his term of endearment for our daughter (because we’re always calling people by the wrong names over here … sleep deprivation??), and I give him “the look.”

  5. says

    I hope My Guy doesn’t read this but he calls me “honey or hun” – probably because his parents say that to each other – and secretly, I hate it. It feels completely generic, and unromantic, and “unspecial”. I have tried to insidiously change that by calling him by an esoteric, only known to us nickname, hoping he would reciprocate–to no avail.

    Since resistance is futile, I have just learned to accept it. No cutesy, sugary terms of endearment for us. I admit I started using it myself (gasp!) now that I’ve acquiesced, or maybe that’s my way of subversion, “Take that! See how you like it!”

    Except, sadly, he is perfectly fine with it.

    (p.s. thank you for your comment on my post – wish my software would automatically send my response to you. time to learn some hacking, i guess. )

  6. says

    Thank you so much for the big laugh today!!

    Ben and I TOTALLY use the big 4 all the time. You would probably hate to be around us. : ) I am trying to limit it, though, because I’m afraid Emily will start calling us “honey” and “dear.” Plus, I am sure we are confusing her by calling each other “baby” and the real baby “baby.” I guess you could call us uncreative folks.

    Darling is one of my all time favorite terms of endearment. I hardly use it, so maybe that’s why!

    As for my dislikes in this area? I am with the previous commenter–“no offense” drives me bonkers!! That and “to be honest with you…”. Ugh.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I’m so glad you laughed! (I was hoping to get a smirk or two at least.)

      As far as the use of Big Four,
      No reason to show one the door,
      If both in the couple
      Find this language supple
      Then sweethearts, huns, dears go for MORE!!

  7. says

    Ha – I don’t mind being called honey…but it’s not my favorite. I prefer “babe” 😉 In all seriousness, I know what you mean, and some of these terms just feel sort of old fashioned and well, almost serventary (is that a word? Can’t think of the word I’m thinking of!), which I don’t dig. I hate ma’am too, that’s just wrong.

  8. says

    This is really such a funny and odd social phenomenon. One that I don’t think often about. Why do we need nicknames? I always liked Eva growing up because it couldn’t be shortened into anything. But then, when I got married, the terms of endearment just sort of evolved, appeared, naturally. I’m not sure why or how, but they’ve stuck.

    I admit it. “Baby” is the most common offender. I don’t like it when I think about it, but it just works.

  9. says

    BLW, I shuddered when I got to the bottom because I realized that it’s been three years and my husband and I still call each other “mommy” and “daddy” around our boy. It started as a term of endearment but yikes, it must stop now!

  10. says

    The only people I use these terms on are my kids and my boyfriend! The rest I use their names because I don’t like being called anything other than my name!

  11. says

    It’s been awhile and I don’t feel comfortable if my girlfriend were to call me any of the four.Calling me by my name (I have three: my two Khmer names and what I go by which is Smokie) would be fine. Calling her by her name at this point would be comfortable for me too. I don’t mind Honey or Hun from women in general including my female friends though. I have wondered why women do that. A few have tried to answer, but I’m not really satisfied.

  12. says

    i guess “schmoopie” is out of the question? :)

    i don’t know about other parts of the country, but in nyc everyone calls any woman, of any age, “miss.” i guess it’s to avoid insulting anyone by the implications that a “ma’am” is older than they are? i don’t like it, though, because it’s usually used in circumstances like “miss, is this your car parked by the hydrant?” or “miss, i was ahead of you on line.” it’s all in the delivery!

  13. says

    Have to say I like hearing my name. I use to get upset at ma’am, especially if he was hot but I have grown use to the fact that ma’am may be what I hear from people under a certain age.

    I can live with some other terms. I have been called dear – not my favorite – and hun but… Nicki works for me.

  14. says

    Ummmm…. :) I am a major offender. I have nicknames for everyone. Lollipop, ducks, duckie, lady, sweets, crazypants, monkeyface, etc. I call all mothers “momma” at some point. I wouldn’t say them to just any one, though.

    Husband, now – he’s gross. He calls me so many different foodstuffs and weird made up things that it pretty much makes anyone listening vomit, which is part of why he does it.

  15. says

    Okay, big pet peeve (these bitch sessions on here are really fun, BLW!). I hate it when I’m with girlfriends at a restaurant and a waiter comes up who’s younger than us and says, “Do you GIRLS know what you’d like to order?” Don’t friggin’ call grown women girls in a patronizing attempt to pretend we’re dewy-eyed and young, okay?

    Really, I can’t stand being referred to as “girls” in anything. On of my Jazzercise instructors always says it and it’s ludicrous. She could use ladies if it’s an all-female class, but “girls?”

    And, speaking of sweets, within a few months of dating, my husband started calling me “Pie” (short for Baby Pie) and that’s all he calls me to this day. If he ever called me Linda I think I’d have a heart attack.

  16. says

    Being called “Ma’am” by someone younger makes me feel old; being called “Dear” by someone older makes me feel young (in a bad way!).

    Husband – who calls me neither – and I are both huge nickname people, but all of ours are pretty weird. Both of our boys have a huge array of nicknames, the provenance of only some of which I can remember.

  17. says

    When Hubby (or any other male or female) tells me “yes, dear” it really pisses me off. I always equate it to them just saying “Ok, just shut the EFF up because I’m tired of listening to you!” Ya know?

  18. Dani says

    I suppose I’m the odd man out in that I don’t mind terms of endearment coming from anybody–kith, kin, acquaintances, strangers, especially those who are clearly aged. I’m partial to darling, love, and sweetheart, though hearing babe, baby, dear, honey and its variations, and sweetie don’t make me cringe.

    I do, however, strongly dislike ma’am, pumpkin, peaches, and sugar. I also don’t like odd little nicknames. Stick to the generic terms for me.

  19. Xylie says

    I think it mostly depends on the person. Some people can call me anything and i don’t mind, while others… others are found washed up on the shoreline a week later. However, I do dislike the Big Four. If you insist on calling me something besides my name, it had better not be something you’d eat! (including the animal names. you eat them too, don’t you? I also hate babe/baby: pedophile, much?) That aside, I think “love/er” and “blue eyes” (assuming you have blue eyes) are sweet from different people (Boyfriend/Girlfriend) as are some private jokes.
    It irritates me when people get overly fussy about social customs implying age (I’m 19, lot’s of people are older than me. The fact of the matter is: if you are older than me (by more than a year or so), I’ll offer you a seat on a train. If you have a higher rank in the company than I do, your POSITION makes you “Ma’am” or “Sir”. I was raised with proper manners and don’t see why people have to complain when somebody acts with (not so)common courtesy. Besides, if I’m POLITELY asked to not call somebody by a particular name/title, I’ll stop.)
    sorry for ranting

  20. Emma says

    My boyfriend has just declared no terms of endearment, and insists on being called his name. I have called him honey, darling, sweetie, smiler, and golden delicious as in the chocolate bar when he quickly pointed out that it was also an apple. Oops!

  21. The Mermaid says

    This past Spring Semester this girl at my school called me sweetheart. I was like ‘I’m not your sweetheart don’t call me that!’ And this girl in my class called me sweetie. I was like ‘I’m not your sweetie don’t call me that!’ To make matters worse, they were both younger than me! I really dislike when people talk to me as if I’m a little child! They can see that I’m a grown adult!

    If they don’t know my name they can ask!

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