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do you wanna be my choux bun?

February 9, 2011
Three blogs and not one to be an excuse for the lack of activity on the two others. More than a month of silence on all fronts however does not imply a lack of thinking about posts. It could even be the contrary. Take this post: I am going to tell you all about all the sweet names I would like to call my Tattooed Man and about the frustration I feel to have to translate them to English. Later I plan to tell you all about the idioms of love and elation in French vs. English. So while keeping me busy Tattooed Man is also very inspiring. Obviously. You can also blame my silence on me for taking a massive lot of teaching this term, which reminds me I ought to do a post or a series on which words you should avoid when teaching in English with a French accent.
Anyway, here is the thing. There is a Tattooed Man in my life and I have massive impulses to sweetly rename him. He’s not a French speaker, so even if I could introduce him to an all new universe of sweet names, my first choice was to use what the English language has to offer. First, there is a problem. And then there will be proper linguistic observations. In the English culture, or maybe I should say in the Midlands culture, anybody, from the cashier at your local swimming-pool to the guy who delivers your grocery, can call you Darling or Love. That’s just for what’s coming from the top of my head. And when I say anyone, I really mean anyone. Interestingly, I stopped getting annoyed by it; exposure effect, I don’t pay attention to it anymore. But now I am annoyed again. It makes those words so common that there are now meaningless. Honey, which is one I still like and I use right now, feels still meaningful, but it is one that applies also to friendship and one that is overheard. That led me to try to find something else and therefore to the first linguistic observation.
It seems to me like the repertoire of sweet names in English is pretty limited compared to French. That obviously could be just due to my own limited English and experience of love in English. But not only in French I know for sure that it is pretty flexible (e.g. I could call Tattooed Man Mon Chou-Fleur [My cauliflower] if I really fancied that, even in the common sweet names, I can cite you between 10 and 20 right now. Try those and see they literal translation.
Mon Cœur [My Heart]
Chéri [Beloved]
Mon Chat [My Cat]
Mon Lapin [My Rabbit]
Doudou [Doudou]
Bébé [Baby]
Mon Chou [My Choux Bun]
Princesse [Princess]
Mon Ange [My Angel]
Ma Puce [My Flea]
Loulou [Loulou]
Ma Caille [My Quail]
Ma Puce [My Flea]
Minou [Kitty]
Mon Trésor [My Treasure]
Mon Amour [My Love]
Ma Douce [My Sweet, where sweet is adjective]
Mon Poussin [My Chick]
Now that’s 18, and I am really not stretching. Those are names that you can hear regularly in France, not of the kind that are unique to a couple and a story. You’ll notice that we like analogies with animal, including parasites, one thing I don’t find in English (though I am not really looking for this anyway, as this category of sweet names is not my favourite).
More importantly, you’ll notice the massive use of possessive articles. The sweet names that don’t have articles in the list actually can be marked too, it’s just that my preference is to the unmarked one for those (generally because the marked one is over-cheesy). That is the thing I get really frustrated about when trying to decide of a sweet name for Tattooed Man. I want the possession mark; sweet names, I realize now, are in French not only a sign of love to the other one, but a social signal to the World. “S/he’s mine, don’t even get close”. Well, you know, we’re French, as much as we are Feminists outside of the bed, when it comes to romantic relationships, we like some tradition. Jealousy, like men making first move, that’s pretty sexy to us if it is just about marking your territory. Likewise we like and practice public displays of affection much, but that’s a story for another time.
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