In these socially – distanced times, I’ve been making an effort to be friendly, when I’m out. On my regular morning walk, I make a point of wishing passers-by a “Good Morning!” as we give each other a wide berth.
“Good morning, darling!” replied the taxi man, parked by the curb reading his paper. I almost tripped and fell into a day-dream about terms of endearment, all the way home.
My father used the word ‘Flower’ re the women in the family. ‘Hen’ was handy when he forgot any woman’s name or was just plain tired. ‘Darling’ was not really on his list.
‘Cariad’ in Welsh means ‘darling.’ I always explain this when I’m telling the story of The Salmon Cariad and show how shocked and embarrassed that angler was when he hooked her.
In an Iranian fairy tale I tell, the story begins with the main character, a female cockroach, searching for a husband. Sent out into the world by her ill father, she dresses in her best and steps out along main street. When the grocer sees her passing, he calls out
“Hello there, Miss Cockroach. Where are you going all dressed up?”
[Remember this is a folktale. It’s a “What if?” challenge to our imagination, as well as a “How is this similar to, or different from life as I know it?” Traditional stories like fairy and folk tales are worth discussing]
The cockroach takes exception to being addressed so brusquely and replies,
“Cockroach yourself! Can’t you see that I am more fragile than a flower? I could be the crown of any man’s life.”
The man wonders, “If I can’t call you Miss Cockroach, what shall I call you? She replies,
“Call me sweet coz (cousin). Tell me you’re glad to see me. Ask me where I am going this fine day.”
The grocer complies but answers more questions unsuccessfully. Miss Cockroach walks on and repeats the process. She demands the same courteous greeting. This time she protests to the butcher
Can’t you see I’m more tender than a rose. I could be the light in any man’s eyes.
Then, to the blacksmith,
“Can’t you see I’m more delicate than a butterfly’s wing? I could quicken the beat of any man’s heart.”
This pattern of call and response repeats when each man’s answer is unacceptable. She then explains, in rhyming couplets, how she is in dire straits and to survive must marry an uncle in Hamadam. (I won’t quote that text here.) Surprisingly, each man listens and asks her to marry him instead – only to be rejected by their response to this final hypothetical question.
“If I should marry you and if we should quarrel and if you would hit me, what would you hit me with?”
At last, she meets a mouse, wearing elegant silver trousers as he waits outside his door. He’s been listening all along and calls out to her
‘Oh sweet sweet coz in dress of silk and almond slippers as white as milk. Tis a pleasure to see you dressed up so. Pray tell me where is it you go?’
All Mr Mouse’s answers satisfy her. She decides he would be a loving husband (as the story goes on to reveal in a comic way). This suitor calls her ‘Light of my eyes,’ and ‘My beloved lady,’ as he proposes. Once they are married, Mistress Cockroach calls her husband ‘His Excellency, Mr Mouse, with Silver Trousers’ … and now their tale truly begins.
In my time I’ve been called all sorts of names. I remember “My Little Cabbage” “Ace” and “Possum.” Others tell me they’ve been called ‘My Lovely,’ ‘Wondy, ‘Lovey’ and of course, good old ‘Mate.’ One friend calls me ‘Moggy” which is an Australian term for just an ordinary cat.
Of course, your tone of voice makes all the difference when using a term of endearment. I love it when Vera uses ‘Pet’’ to people in their place in a popular TV crime series from the UK.
What terms of endearment do you remember? In Co-Vid times we need more of them. It’s the feeling underneath those particular words that make an instant connection across the distance between us.
Check out some of the links below.
Languages of love: 10 unusual terms of endearment in BBC News Magazine,30 May 2013.
Languages of love: Readers’ global terms of endearment, 9 June, 2013.
Mistress Cockroach in MEDEVI, Anne Sinclair. Persian Folk and Fairy Tales. Toronto, Random House, 1965. (p 81- 92)
The Salmon Cariad in GARNER, Alan. A Bag of Moonshine. illus P.J. Lynch. Collins. London, 1986 (p.63-67)
All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.