Growing up in the South, most everyone I knew had a nickname. Our home is no exception; few people are called by their real names here.
Those who've known me for the greater part of my life still call me Annie. Bradley has always been Brad to his extended family and hometown friends. I often call my best friends K (or K. Dub) and E. And little Mac? He never had a chance.
His given name is McNeal; a significant plus to such a name is the vast selection of nicknames one can derive from it: McNugget, Mac-Mac, Mac Attack, Mac-Man and my personal favorite, Macky. His dad has asked that I stop calling him Macky by his second birthday, but I have a feeling it'll always roll off my tongue.
I worried for a time that Mac wouldn't meet the developmental milestone of recognizing and responding to his name around six months. How could he possibly do that when he has so many aliases? Thankfully, Mac and Macky seem to do the trick; he turns his head whenever his little ears pick up on those two.
When Macky doesn't come out of my mouth, "monkey" is my second go-to term of endearment for our little man. I'm not sure if it was a slip of the tongue early on, but monkey and (cringe of embarassment) monk-monk pop out when I'm trying to calm him. It works every time, so I am shameless in my use of those words around the house.
The problem comes in when I use these sweet terms of affection outside of our little abode. When visiting my parents the other weekend, I ran smack into my dad and apologized with, "Oops! Sorry, monkey!" A friend called my cell phone the other day and I answered with an enthusiastic, "Monkey!! Hi!" I hope people tune it out, because this habit may not be going anywhere. My brain now substitutes monkey for sweetie, baby, friend, girl or any other affectionate noun.
Bradley's even gotten called monkey a few times, though typically I stick with B or babe. Dear has always sounded elderly to me and words like honey or darling seem a little forced. B isn't quite the snookums or shmoopy pants type, either, if you can't tell.
Before we started dating, I saved his number in my phone under Boo Radley, from a favorite book we have in common. (Take a wild guess.) Over the years, it's been shortened to Boo. I fight my instinct to call him Boo when others are around, because it sounds a little different from me than it does from the rappers who use the same term. If you ever hear me answer B's phone call, though, I typically say, "Hi, Boo!" before I even know I've done it. In public I do my best to curb this habit but I bet half of the Upstate thinks I'm Jay Z's woman on the side.
I only ever call B "Bradley" if I'm panicked or we're in a crowded room. If possible, I aim to call him by his God-given name when there are others around; it seems like the least embarrassing option for him. I doubt men are dying to be called by cute nicknames while surrounded by other guys.
Sometimes, though, you've just gotta let the terms of endearment fly. My friend Sarah visited us a while back and, no less than an hour after arriving, said, "I've gotta be honest. There are a whole lot of 'babes' being thrown around in this car." She was right.
I try to censor myself in crowds, but when you're as accustomed to terms of endearment and nicknames as we are, hearing your full name almost sounds like a reprimand. In parents' house, when Mom calls you by all three names (or four, in my brother's case), it's never followed by anything good.
B still laughs about the time he called me by name from another room, hoping to get my attention. He did, and I quickly yelled back, "Don't you call me Anne unless you mean it!!" My heart drops a little when I hear it from him - not that I don't like my name, just that within our four walls it's hardly ever used. It's all about context...
If I address you as "monkey" in an email or face to face, please know I'm not likening you to a primate. It means you're as adorable as our Macky and I lump you into a category of friends worthy of such a distinction.
Do you call your loved ones by any unique terms of endearment? (My parents call their Westie Cotton by the nickname "Boog," short for Booger, all the time. And I know at least one other new mom who calls her son "monkey," so don't be ashamed to spill!!)
**By the way, the many quotation marks in this post's first iteration made my eyes cross. I took most of them out because they cluttered up every paragraph! Sorry if that makes things a little confusing; my inner grammarian and my visual perfectionist are fighting over the best way to handle this.
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