Pet names/Nick names

A nickname is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man” William Hazlitt

I just read a posting where a mother said, “I miss my Princess …” in reference to her adult daughter.  It made me uncomfortable.  I am not sure if it is because I know that the daughter is an adult, or if it is the “princess” part or what exactly … but I had a definite reaction to reading it.  Maybe it was the context or lack thereof.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend once upon a time.  When our boys were little, I started calling my husband “Daddy”; not always, and not exclusively, (and not in a sexual manner), but as a way of demonstrating and encouraging the kids to do the same.  Things like, “Son, are we going to have mashed potato’s or french fries tonight?  What do you think Daddy?”  At some point this friend told me, “It is *fine* right now, but please don’t make it a permanent part of your vocabulary.  There is nothing more disturbing than a grown woman calling her partner Daddy for no apparent reason.  My grandparents did that all the way to the end of their lives – called each other “Mother” and “Dad”.  It always squicked me out.”

Am I pro or con pet names?  I think that for me, context is a big part of it.  I know some couples who use pet names for each other – things like baby, babe, honey, sweetheart … and I have no problem with it what-so-ever; and others who use those very same pet names where it bugs me every time.  What is the difference?

One thing is how natural is it?  If it seems forced, or is being used as a way of marking territory or otherwise covering up some insecurity or over-exuberance, then it is not cool.  If it is overly and/or overtly sexual it is also likely to set off the discordant bells.  If it is something that is used casually, easily, and with genuine affection I am likely to not even notice that a pet name or endearment was used.

And as far as kids go?  I am not sure that “little man” and “princess” are the most awesome sorts of nicknames – and perhaps that is part of my deal.  On the other hand, my best friends daughter IS a princess – and has also grown up to be one of the most intelligent, beautiful and generally well rounded women I know – so just using the moniker can’t be all that bad!

We gave our children Big Grown Up sounding names.  It was tough to call little trembling toddlers by such Big names.  As a matter of fact, I was convinced for the first six months of his life that we had mis-named our eldest child – it just didn’t *fit* him!  Now that he is a teenager, of course that is his name, and it suits him perfectly.  As a baby, and little kid though, we came up with a whole host of nick-names and pet names for him.

The youngest child was given his nick-name in utero by his big brother.  The name stuck and I am pretty sure that even well into grade school the family all called him by his nickname 90 percent of the time.  Sometime during grade school he requested that we use his real name, and the family made a concerted effort to switch with relatively good success.

That was years ago now, The nickname is pervasive and persistent though.  Just last week he was sitting at the computer showing one of his friends a video game.  I asked him to take the trash out, and then realized, to my horror, that I had used the nickname … In Front of the School Friend!  sag  Here is the awesome thing – it is natural to use – we use it like his name, without thinking, with no teasing or intention packed into it – it is just a part of who he is to us.  When I mentioned it to him later (to apologize) he told me, “Oh, you know I didn’t even notice, and you know, it’s fine.  It doesn’t bother me at all.”  I guess our responsiveness to his request to use his real name, in combination with growing up some, has made the nickname acceptable again.  🙂

So what about you? Do you use pet names/nicknames?  Are they always acceptable, sometimes, never? … when and why?

“No orator can top the one who can give good nicknames.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes


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