Terms of Endearment

When they aren’t football hooligans, the English have a reputation abroad of being stiff, reserved and unfriendly. Perhaps some are. But I’m always amused, when I get back to the midlands and north of England, by the easy way complete strangers address one another in loving terms.

It’s sometimes disconcerting for foreigners, who initially aren’t sure whether the stranger is coming on to them or not, but this is a custom or habit that I personally hope will not die out. It is, no doubt of that, a class marker: a clear indication of a working class disregard for formality. But it testifies to a basic kindness, openness, and a friendly disposition.

In the West Country it’s “me lover” or even, in Cornwall, “me handsome”. “Thanks, duck,” is common as you travel eastwards towards Derbyshire, Leicester and Nottingham, “chuck” as you move northwest, and in the northeast you may also be “hinny” or “petal”, whilst  “hen” is used in Scotland. We stay in the farmyard in the midlands with the greetings “Watcha me old cock” or “Awright cocker?”, and even “Awright mucker?” (your mate who mucks out the stable with you). It’s not only children who may hear themselves called “chick” or “chicken”, and “flower” seems to be rife all over the wider midland area including Yorkshire. In London, you may hear yourself called “sunshine” or “treacle”. Why “treacle”? Rhyming slang, of course: treacle tart = sweetheart!

You know you are not really “My love”, “My darling”, “Pet” or “Sweetheart”, but it’s comforting somehow to hear it. Are there still shops here where the assistants address their customers as “Sir”, “Madam” or “Miss”? Perhaps I frequent the wrong kind, but “love” is what I keep hearing. “There you are, luv.” It’s reassuring, too, and usually comes with a smile: a person who calls me “love” isn’t likely to be about to mug me, though of course there’s no guarantee he or she won’t be picking my pocket!

2 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment

  1. Pingback: Serendipity or Divine Providence? | catterel

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