Nicknames, diminutives, are a function of familiarity.  They imply that the speaker knows the adressee so well that hir given, legal name is taken for granted and the term of affection will be welcomed.  Pet names are permitted names, to be used because they in some way describe the one named more accurately than either a first name or, more regularly, a title and last name.  To give a pet name is to display intimate knowledge – usually not a thing done in public or in conversation with strangers.

That, let it be stated is the proper usage of pet or nicknames.

As most women will tell you, the improper usage is not only alive and well, but growing at an alarming rate.  The improper use is generally undertaken by men who can’t be bothered to remember any of a woman’s given names (which he considers unimportant anyway as women as individuals are interchangeable to him) and who find themselves utterly charming (and are most often experienced as utterly revolting).  These men are so uncomfortable with the idea that a woman might have an independant identity and function that they must reduce women to the lowest common denominator – their “sexual” identity as women.   Sweetheart.  Baby.  Honey.  Cutie.  Muffin.

Personally, I’ve never been introduced to any other human being whose legal name was Sweetheart.  And I’ve noticed a rather pervasive trend wherein the person being introduced gives the name by which they prefer to be addressed at the actual introduction.  Again, that name has never been “Sweetheart”.

So yes, if you call me Sweetheart after I have gone to the trouble of telling you what I prefer to be called (presuming you are neither an intimate friend or relation, nor an elderly Southern waitress) you are a jerk.  A creepy, rude, misogynist jerk with no manners and a hearing and memory problem.  And yes, if you call me Sweetheart, I will call you out on it.  No, I will not laugh at your oh-so-witty lazy joke.  Nor will I find it flattering or charming.  If you persist in your ill-bred, ill-mannered behavior, I will be forced to turn around and leave in the middle of your sentence, as clearly you are not speaking to me.

Just FYI.



~ by heycarahe on February 3, 2008.

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