Terms of Endearment: Come to me, my little flitter-mouse

By Mark Skoultchi

February 12, 2013

blogA kiss may still be a kiss, but the names we call our lovers have definitely changed as time goes by. And as a naming agency, we find it fascinating.

For instance, while sweetness is as aphrodisiacal a metaphor today as it was in the 1300s, bats, mice and fish have thankfully gone out of favor. And what passed for a term of affection in the 14th century (ever hear of Pigsney?) may sound more like an epithet in the 21st .

In honor of Valentine’s Day, then, here’s a walk down lover’s lane and just a few of the many terms humans have evolved over the centuries in the name of love.

800s
Darling (supposedly the oldest, most enduring term of endearment in the English language)

1100s
Sweetheart (it’s easy to see why this one has endured)

1300s
Cinnamon (found in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale: “My faire byrd, my swete cynamome.”)
Honey (short and sweet)
Love (some classics can’t be improved upon)
Pigsney (pronounced “pig’s knee,” and derived from “pig’s eye:” how’s that for romantic?)
Poppet  (“small or dainty person”)
Sweeting (a precursor to Sweet Thing)

1400s
Turtle (because you can’t hurry love?)

1500s
Creepmouse (we don’t get it either)
Dear (the old standby)
Ding-ding (as in someone who rings your bells?)
Ding-Dong (???)
Duck (don’t ask us)
Ducky (ditto)
Honey-sop (yuck)
Lambkin (diminutives are common)
Marmoset (a type of small monkey)
Pug (possibly related to Puck, the mischievous sprite)
Sparling (an old name for a fish we now call the smelt)
Sweetikins (not to be confused with Sweetie-Pie or Sweetpea)

1600s
Flittermouse (otherwise known as a bat; as in Ben Johnson’s Alchemist: “My fine Flitter-mouse, My Bird o’ the night”)
Sweetling (Earthling to Sweetling…)

1700s
Honey Bunny (just a hop away from Honeybun and Honeybunch)
Sweetie (often signaling that a request is about to be made of the loved one)

1800s
Baby (and then there’s its tougher cousin, Babe)
Cabbage (derived from the French expression “Mon petit chou” [my little cabbage])
Lovey-Dovey (all kisses and coos)
Pet (no comment)

1900s
Crumpet (ved-dy British)
Cutie (another popular diminutive—and let’s not forget Cutie-Pie)
Pudding (no comment)
Shnookums (or the more serious Snookums)
Sugar (a little more dignified than Sugar Pie)

As for the 21st century….time will tell what new expressions lovers cook up to express their affection. But while the letters may shift around a little, the sentiments conveyed are likely to be pretty much the same. As the song goes, the fundamental things apply as time goes by.

Catchword is an award-winning naming agency founded in 1998, with offices in California and New York. Need help coming up with a name for your company, product or service? Contact us today!

  • Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!