England, pet names, and you…

Posted on April 29, 2009 by yankeebean

yankeebeanWe had a comment from ‘I Love This Blog’ (great name, by the way ;) ) about the pet names that are used in England and what we think about ‘em…

She said:

“Is it quite common for British men to use pet names such as “honey,” “dear,” or even “sweetie?”

First off, I absolutely detest pet names, I find them really generic (if there is to be a pet name I like it to have some story behind it). Secondly, as someone who is barely into her twenties, those particular words make me feel like I’m already over the hill and married for decades. Third.. Maybe it’s an American machismo thing but I’ve never heard men in their twenties use it! (I’m incredibly relieved it’s not “babe” or “baby”)

So.. just wondering.. is this considered normal or is my British man just the ultra sensitive type? :)

OOHHHHHHHHH, the times we’ve all had trying to interpret pet names and what they mean.  I often wonder how I SHOULD feel and try to measure it up against how it ACTUALLY MAKES me feel.  It’s very weird… like a brief out-of-body experience…

I oscillate back and forth about pet names…  There seem to be two major deciding factors that determine my gut-reaction to pet names:

The intonation

‘Love’, ‘Pet’, ‘Honey’, ‘Lover’, ‘Dear’, ‘Sweetie’… there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ve heard them all.  But the intonation that’s used says a lot – A guy can say ‘alright, love?’ and it can mean any number of things:

  • “Hello”
  • “OK?”
  • “How are you?”
  • “Are you alright?”
  • “I think you’re hot”
  • “I think you’re hot and I think you think I’m hot”

It’s a smorgasbord of underlying meaning!  A man (or woman for that matter) could call me Love and it could almost go unnoticed… or (depending on the delivery) it could make me wanna go home a take a shower.

The second ‘major player’ in the do-pet-names-give-me-the-heebie-jeebies issue is a little easier to tie down.

The chosen pet name

There are certain pet names that just give me the creeps… One in particular is… drum roll, please:

Good Girl

GROSS!!!!   Eeeeeeeeewwwww!!!  Bleuggghhhhhh!!!

This is a rare one (thank God), but I’ve had English men (always men) say ‘Good Girl’ to me.  I’m 27!  I own and run two businesses!  It makes me feel like I should be wearing a pinafore with my hair in pig tails… yuck…

With ‘Good Girl’ (shudder) out of the way, that leaves two camps for me and pet names – The ones I don’t really mind and ones that are more likely to irk me a little.

I don’t really mind:

  • Love
  • Honey (Hun)
  • Anything ironic or comedic value like ‘crumpet’ or ‘doll face’ or something that’s obviously being said in jest

But I’m more likely to be irked by:

  • Sweetie (feel a little patronised)
  • Dear (ditto)
  • Darling (little too intimate)
  • Babe (greasy)
  • Lover (creates unwanted mental image)

I could go either way with ‘Poppet’…

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some… if you can think of any more, bring it on!

When I think about it, none of these names REALLY bug me that much (except ‘Good Girl’).  At the root of it all I know it’s just another thing that makes the English English… it does, however, remind me of one of my new mantras – ‘To each their own’. :)

Related Posts:

What Others Are Saying

  1. Kmiss April 26, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I don’t know why so many don’t like the pet names? I love it when my man calls me darlin’, dear, love. It sounds much better coming from an Englishman, I like the endearing terms, it adds to the charm. Also I melt when my Pompey says “bayyby” in his Southern English accent.

  2. Kelly February 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Also the petname ‘duck’ is also used in the Midlands and Northern England, for example ‘Aye up our duck’, ‘Do us a favour duck and stick the kettle on’

  3. KarenB December 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    What connotation does ‘dear’ haves in America. The scenario in question is USA guy, who is an old friend of a British lady, has been flirting with her and has called her ‘dear’ for the first time (over email – they have not seen each other in years).
    Is it just a friendly term of endearment to keep in the ‘just friends’ zone or is it showing any romantic interest?
    Dear is not really used much in England between young(ish) people and is often used in a sarcastic manner.
    Your help would be greatly appreciated with this one!

    • amber May 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Dear is very common and generic here in the US. its just a positive term to use. Talking to a child ” dear please bring me my glasses” or at a gas station ” thank you dear , have a good day” husband and wife ” dear pleas take out the trash” school teacher to student ” please take your seat dear” …..see it just puts a positive spin on whatever you are trying to say and anyone can say it to practically anyone else so iI wouldn’t take it too personal at all

  4. pinkrhythm June 3, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I love it when my enlingshman calls me Poppet or Treacle with that sexy british accent,i get mushy most of the time ..lol.

  5. Lyssen April 27, 2011 at 4:59 am

    When I lived in York I found that I was constantly called pet names in shops, particularly by older men (around my father’s age; I’m finishing up uni) but not in a creepy way. It just happened to be a habit for them. When I asked my co-workers about some of the things I was called they enlightened me as to some of the York/Yorkshire specific pet names: “Flower” and “Petal”. Apparently these are very common pet names for a younger girl. And of course, I got the typical “love,” “sweetie,” “dear,” and “hun/honey.” It got to the point that I thought something was wrong if the guy in Cornwall Pasties didn’t call me “Flower.”

  6. JBird January 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Wow, these posts are so helpful. My English boyfriend asks, “you alright?” and I think, “um yeah….why, do I look sick?”. Ha. Now I get it!! He must think I’m so rude for looking at him with that perplexed expression when he’s just saying “hi”. Good grief….mystery solved.

    Also, the pet names took me by surprise, but I love it! Darling, babe, love….it’s all good.

  7. Toshimi1043 December 31, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    LOL, this just reminded me of this one time when I was working at a burger restaurant. I was taking an Irish man’s order and he kept calling me “Darling.” I think I was able to stay calm, and reminded myself inside that this was probably just normal for his culture (at the time I didn’t know he was Irish. The vast majority of our tourists come from Japan, Korea or the US mainland. Very rarely from anywhere in Europe) Inside, though, I was flustered.

  8. AnEnglishOne September 4, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    we like, particularly in york to call people, duck as well, sometimes duckie, but its more the oaps!

  9. ringo'erstones September 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    The most important thing to remember is that the words we use have evolved over a thousand years so what ever you don’t critize how we use them. For Brits its something we dont even think about, its part of our culture its how we speak.

  10. laney April 4, 2010 at 4:04 am

    I just started seeing a British man and he’s called me, pet, hun, etc within days of when we first starting seeing each other. Are these names terms of affection or is it used casually and to everyone? I’m from the US and I only call people I care about pet names.

  11. dragonyphoenix April 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Not a British thing but related to your post…

    My mother is from Michigan while my sister and I grew up in New York. She would call people “dear” and “hon” or “honey” all the time. It totally embarrassed us. I can recall saying, in that annoyed teenage voice, “Mom, you can’t call the mechanic ‘honey’.”

  12. ambeline March 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Oh I think the Northerners are the most creative with the names!
    I have been “as lovely as a Spring Chicken,” a “little sausage”
    (i didn’t know whether or not to cry when i heard that one!)
    my friend calls me “poppet”, “love” and “petal” all the time.
    i can handle most anything but “ma’am.”

  13. yankeebean January 25, 2010 at 9:40 am

    ‘Are you alright?’ totally confused me when I first got here. I remember sitting in the cousin’s living room in London when I first arrived and everyone kept asking me if I was alright. I thought I must seem distraught or something :)

    Wench?? Hahahahaaa!! I never would’ve guessed :D Mr. Nice Guy calls me sausage, though, and he’s a vegetarian so what does that mean?? ;)

    I do, indeed get ‘young lady’ – not a huge fan, I’ve gotta admit. But I’ve been called ‘good girl’ more times in the past week than I have in the past YEAR and it’s driving me right up the wall. WTF?? It makes me feel like I should be wear a leash and collar. Yuck…

  14. katieseattle January 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    does anyone else get young lady? I cringe every time he says it.

  15. Steve January 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    My pet name for my American wife is “wench” which at first sounds condecending, but it isn’t it’s simply a pet name, and she loves it! However, more often than not I either use her name or just simply “love”, but then, I’m a Yorkshireman, and it is not unusual for a Yorkshireman to call another MAN, “love” as in….. “Eyup Frank old love, how you doing?”

    I have to be aware to moderate use of this outside of Yorkshire or you could end up with some very old fashioned looks from the recipient. :-)

  16. MyAmbitiousFiction January 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    My long-distance-englishman has made a habit of calling me “Little Miss”. I think it’s endlessly adorable, and turns me to mush everytime I actually get to HEAR him say it. I wouldn’t call us a couple, but are very close friends. I do adore him and love to think back on our few phone conversations. Recalling his sweet mannerisms and the affectionate way he says “Hey, Babe! You ok?” at the beginning of every conversation. Was anyone else confused by “You ok?” at first?……. My reaction was “Yes, of course….Why would I not be??” Gosh, I am totally overtaken by him right now. Here’s hoping it last!! xoxo thanks for your amazing blog girls xx

  17. Elizabeth_J_L November 26, 2009 at 2:34 am

    When me an my now English husband were just dating, he would say “good girl” to me often.
    I’m from Texas, and rather than Creepy being my first reaction, i would just laugh out loud and think…..Wow, this guy is ridiculous!
    But he was really just meaning he completely agreed with whatever it was that I had just said before.
    But as much as I harassed him about Mary Poppins, tea time, and figgy pudding…..I can handle “good girl” now and again.

  18. lovesahoosier November 25, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    my American Fiancee just loves being called baby and darlin’ by me. name the latter i use a lot but my favourite name to call her is her full Christian not the shortened one her ex husband and friend uses nor the really shortened one she uses.
    i have found though not just by my partner that American women do tend to say Sweetie a lot. but that just my experience
    i am here in the East too in between Essex and Norfolk. where it seems to me pet names are not used a lot. but what do i know i am a mere man ;)

    and i will have to hold my hands up to using ” good girl” once, now in what context i used it i don’t know . but i do feel suitably chastened by your post here. and promise never to use it again.

  19. Ramona September 30, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I love this website!!
    I don’t mind any of the pet names except babe, I find very degrading….but I guess thats just me! It took me a while to get used to the pet names, I guess the English are the English (do they know that Americans don’t really use all them like this!)

  20. Kneazle1 September 9, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Hi Yankeebean :) It doesn’t bother me these days, I’ve grown used to it from him and now I do it too, it’s more a term of endearment rather than when i first met him me thinking he’d forgotten my name! After 12 years he’d better not forget my name XD. I did have one ex where we tried to out do each other on the sickeningly sweet pet names for a giggle.

    I find it a bit odd when people I don’t know use names like sweetie I find it a bit patronising and I really hate good girl, it makes me feel like a pet dog or something and I tend to retailliate in kind with a well placed good boy and pat on the head if I know them well enough. Generally however I find once I’ve got to know the person better that they tend to refer to everyone like that, it makes it a bit easier to stomach then, I have a northern friend who refers to everyone as treacle odd at first but normal to me now.

  21. Kneazle1 September 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    My partner has always called me Honey or Hun to the point where I once rounded on him and told him I had a name actually and would he care to remember it sometime. Funny thing is I call people Honey or Hun these days too including him. Down here in the Westcountry people often say ‘me luverr’ as in alreet me luverr meaning alright my lovely!

    • yankeebean September 8, 2009 at 7:16 pm

      Hi Kneazle1! I have fallen into the pet name cycle BIG time… and my guy has always used nicknames for me too – to the point where it’s almost a little weird when he used my real name :) I’m more used to answering to ‘Bean’ or ‘Sausage’ (I’m only now realising the food-theme, my dude does love to eat…)

      Does it still bother you at all? Or have you embraced it?

  22. Steve Shawcross July 29, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    “Luv” is pretty much a standard in northern England, they’re friendly up there ;-)

    “Duck” is used heavily in the East Midlands. Although it comes from the Old English ducca= “duke”. So like saying “chief”, “squire”, “guv”, “boss” etc.

    Ducca must’ve become corrupted to duck over the years!

  23. Kelley June 3, 2009 at 5:18 am

    I’m a Californian dating an Englishman and I got called treacle several times. I didn’t like the way he said it and after a few threatening glares he stopped.

    He uses love, darling, and my dear pretty regularly.

    When he hears friends of mine in CA refer to their wives with the word “dude” he has a fit!

    Thanks for the company ladies!

  24. Megan May 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I’ve asked my English man to call me dear just because I like hearing the way he pronounces it. It’s just so sexy.

    As our relationship is relatively new, we’ve come up with lots of pet names for one another – his being “pumpkin” or “babe” for me. I usually refer to him as “babe, baby, sweetie, or honey bunny” but I never seem to call him honey which does strike me as very American. However, whenever he calls me dear, I must confess he gets whatever he wants. (Just keep that a secret from him).

    Of course, in public we are strictly Nick and Megan. No sense in nauseating the masses with our pumpkin and honey bunny sweet talk.

  25. yankeebean May 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    May ‘dude’ live on forever more! A fine word that seems right in every situation…

    I think ‘Dude’ might be my verbal security blanket…

  26. I Love This Blog! May 8, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Can’t believe it took me a week to notice this post!! Yes, I’ve had “good girl,” too, and I’ve started using “good boy” now in retribution. I had “sweet cheeks” two years ago, but I think I must have winced or thrown some other horrified look as I haven’t heard that since.

    If it ever gets really ridiculous, I think I’ll fight back with “honey bunny,” “pumpkin,” or “cutie patootie” in front of his friends. Think that’ll fix things…

    Maybe he flinches at my overuse of “dude….” (California born and raised, I can’t help it!!)

  27. Camie May 8, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Aww, I don’t mind “good girl”. I’m 34 and accomplished; I know my fiance (from Essex) isn’t talking down to me when he says it. It’s loving and it means he’s proud of me. I also don’t mind when he calls me “babe” or a hot “bird”. These are all expressions of his love for me, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

  28. parlezvouskiwi May 2, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I can’t stand it when strangers call me sweetie, or darling but don’t mind if it’s one of my friends.

    As for “alright, love?” I was the same when I lived in the UK, I was never sure whether to answer :-)

  29. Michelloui May 1, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I don’t mind most pet names, but sometimes they are a bit ‘wrong’. I lived in Northumberland a while and usually got ‘pet’ or sometimes ‘petal’. Which always seemed fine. Ive never had ‘good girl’ but maybe that says more about me! :)

    Now that I live in Essex it is sometimes ‘love’ or ‘darlin’ but actually I don’t hear pet names as often here as I do if I go out of Essex. For example, London cabbies: love, innit?

  30. Rachel April 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    All fun! It must be an East-coast thing, but each time I go to Norwich I get “bird” or “birdy.” I think it is cute.

    And maybe because I’m turning 31 in a few weeks, “good girl” would be much better than the little 16 year olds at the grocery store calling me “ma’am” (ugh!!!!), but at the same time, I often fluster at “kiddo” here in California — so I see the point.

  31. Sukey April 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I really like the cockney “darlin’ ” – and in my part of Wiltshire, “lovey”, used by both men and women. In fact, americans shouldnt assume that these pet names are patronising and just used by men to women. Most days, in a trip to any local market, I will be called love, lovey, sweetheart, dearie and pet by women as well as men. It’s just the english way – meant to be friendly and affectionate. Lover in this part of the world is a very old-fashioned westcountry usage – again used by both men and women (and to men and women) as a variant of love and with no sexual connotations. PS – I forgot petal – petal is also quite common and very charming!

  32. yankeebean April 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Duck and Hen! I love it!! Reminds me of ‘Ducky’ from 16 candles…

  33. Iota April 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Where I grew up, people called women and girls “Duck” or “Ducks”. Weird. Unless you think of Glasgow, where it’s “Hen”.

  34. yankeebean April 29, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Sukey – I’ve been called Honey here, but I’ve noticed that it’s never shortened to ‘hun’. Also, now that I think about it, it’s only ever been used by guy friends that I’m closer to. What does it all mean? :)

    notfromaroundhere – I know what you mean! Since the move down South I really miss the Northern use (and pronunciation) of ‘love’. It’s just not the same down here :)

  35. notfromaroundhere April 29, 2009 at 8:53 am

    It’s always, always “love” whenever a male English person speaks to me outside a professional context — just happened to me a minute ago. Every single maintenance person around either my job or my home, whenever they see me, it’s “Alright, love?” on meeting and “Cheers, love” or something similar on departing, but always “love” more than once.

  36. Sukey April 29, 2009 at 7:59 am

    I’ve never heard an englishman use ‘honey’ – that’s very much an american expression.

  37. yankeebean May 8, 2009 at 10:23 am


    You definitely have a point there, if my guy used any of these pet names I would know it was because he was showing he loved me, so then I don’t think I’d mind :)

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