June 8, 2010

Terms of Endearment

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.


LyndsAU said...

I call Addison Bitty and Sissy all the time. Sissy when talking to the dogs and my mom used Bitty and it stuck! She will answer to them and I think UH OH :) I love Mac boy and I can't wait to meet him SOON!

MissBrightside said...

Our last name is Macky, and my husband has always preferred to be called that...he hates his first name. I call him Noodle. In public. He just takes it :o)

Kristen said...

I am laughing out loud at the story behind "Boo!" I always thought it was strange that you used a rapper's term of endearment; I just never asked. The "To Kill a Mockingbird" reference makes SO much more sense!!! Haha!

Oh, and no matter how much I try to fight it, I am sure that I'll be "Aunt Keetie" to my sister's kids. She refuses to call me anything but Keetie!


Traci Theodore said...

Casa de Theodore is nickname abundant. We have so many...I'll tell the most frequently used ones for Addie (though there are more)...
Addie is my beagle's name. It is derived from the anti-anxiety rx: ativan, due to Addie's calming effect on me.
Nickname numero uno: The Show (Show, Show Girl, Baby Ads Show) because we're so entertained by her
More nicknames for our Beag: (in no order) Beag, Beag-a-lot, Show-us, Addus, Beag-us, Addie-Lou. We have fun :-)

Hannah said...

hahah I also use the term Monkey alot. I'm preg with my first. I often refer to this baby as my little bug or bean. We do have a lab/golden ret mix named Kirby. He gets called a myriad of names. Kirbs, Buddy, Budders, Kirby James (My husband's middle name is james and when ever Kirby gets in trouble Patrick's middle name comes in to make it sound more serious). This post made me laugh

Alex said...

Oh my goodness, nicknames abound in my world. My two dear friends Marissa and Melissa are, respectively, Marebear (rhymes with Carebear) and MelBell. My dog Myrtle, probably has no idea what her real name is as I call her Turtle, Yurtle, Sugar Lump, Myrt, Pumpkin, etc. My niece, Libby is pretty lucky with just Lib, sometimes Libster and Lobster. I feel sorry for any future children...

Stephanie said...

We have started calling Emery "E" for short, but that's about it. Neil is so short that it doesn't really need a nickname, although I agree with you that "Dear", "Honey", or even "Darling" just don't sound right. And I'm pretty sure Neil what wonder who or what had taken over his wife if I called him one of those names out loud.

Kelli Staggs said...

I am a total nickname girl. Although, I always felt bad for kids at school who didn't go by their given name and had to correct the teacher on the first day...and then I did it to BOTH of my kids. Figures... Oh, and I also was terrified that Jack wouldn't have any name recognition skills whatsoever. Oddly, he mainly responds to his name, which he is rarely called. Figures again... :o)

Charlotte said...

We NEVER were called by our God given names unless we were in trouble!!! My parents always called us by nicknames, and they always used nicknames for each other as well and I am afraid I have continued that on in my house! My husband knows when I call him by his "name" that he is in TROUBLE!! I love having petnames for each other and it used to just be in private, but now it's turned into full blown anywhere and everywhere and the same for our daughter...she most definitely does not respond nearly as well to her name as she does all the petnames we use!!! I LOVE that aspect of the South!!! And I call everyone "Shug" so much that it has become my nickname all my childhood friends call me! We all have a name for each other and that's what I've been dubbed as we've grown up. GREAT POST!!


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