Nicknames and Pet Names

When I was in elementary school my grandmother took my sister and I on our first sans-parents trip. We flew across the country to San Diego to see one of my aunts who had a young son and was pregnant with her second child. My little cousin’s name was Sean, and I remember cooing to him, “Hey Sean, hey little Sean, hey there little Seanie-Seanie-Seanie-Seanie-Seanie!” My aunt stopped me right there and said, “Oh, no. No nicknames. He is just Sean. I don’t want anything silly to stick.”

I didn’t really grow up with a nickname either. I think my parents didn’t really know what to shorten my name to, or maybe no one really thought about it (except for my sixth grade teacher who jokingly referred to me as C—-nie-Weenie-Beanie-Frances, although that’s not really shorter). But for someone who grew up without a ton of nicknames, I think P and I are going to be the kind of parents (someday) that have a million nicknames for our kids–if our poor dog is any indication. His name is Sampson but he also goes by Sam, Sammy, Sammu, Samaloula, Samalou, Bubala (which actually means “grandmother” in Yiddish, so don’t ask me where that came from), Bubalou, Bubaloula, Bubahead, Bubaface, you get the picture. I guess the dog is used to our craziness, because he seems to respond to all of them.

Anyway, that was my long introduction to my ramble for today: Nicknames (pet names?) for couples, US and Nepali style.

In the US couples have all sorts of pet names for their significant other. They range from cutesy (Baby, Sweetie, Darling) to food inspired (Cupcake, Muffin, Honey) to silly (insert all sorts of potential nouns here). I kind of wish P and I had a better pet name for each other. I admit, ours is totally dumb, and really has absolutely no meaning at all, but it’s one of those things where it just stuck, and now I don’t think it will ever change (perhaps my Aunt had a point way back when?)

In high school somehow I started using the made up word “Merface” as a silly term of endearment for friends or my sisters. I don’t have a clue where it came from, it was probably something that just came up in conversation once and stuck. By the time I met P in college, “Merface” had morphed into “Merf” and that also just kind of stuck. Eventually P was the one and only Merf in my life and that name became this silly nonsensical term that I used so frequently with P (and he with me) that occasionally he stops and says, “You know, my name isn’t really Merf.”

Much like our poor dog, Merf also has lots of variations: there is the short and to the point “Mer” that can also be elongated when I’m pouting about something like, “But meeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrr I don’t want to eat rice today” or P:
Meeeeeerrrrr pasta, again?”), there’s the flirty “Merfy” (“looking good Merfy”) or the more playful “Merfalou” or “Merfaloula.” Or even an insult—“Don’t be such a Merface.” You get the idea.

Gosh, I feel pretty ridiculous even typing all this out, but I’ve already gotten this far, so I might as well keep going.

“Merf” I think looks even stranger when typed out rather than said, because I think most people probably assume we are saying “Murph or Murphy” to each other, like the Irish name. Maybe they think I’m trying to Irish-American-ify P by christening him “Murphy.”

Anyway, aside from our weird nickname that doesn’t mean anything, there are some relatively common Nepali terms of endearment that people use, so I wanted to mention those.

I think a frequent one is “Nanu and Baba.” Nanu means something like “little girl,” while Baba could mean “father” but is also used similarly to Babu for little boys. Sometimes I find in confusing because “Baba and Nanu” are also used as generic cutesy terms for Nepali children. So there could potentially be both an older and younger set of “Babas and Nanus” over for a dinner party. Although I guess there could be a lot of older and younger “Muffins and Sweeties” too depending on the crowd you are with.

Our friends AS and N use these particular pet names a lot. When they stayed with us for several months, I got so used to hearing them call each other Baba and Nanu that I even started referring to them as Baba and Nanu, which in our household was more of an inside joke, but when visiting Nepalis heard me call N Baba it probably scandalized them (“What is going on in this house?”)

I asked P if he could think of any others. Some wives sometimes call their husbands “Raja” (king) and I guess conversely the wives might be called “Rani” (queen). P’s parents call him “Kalu” as a nickname (black). AS said that sometimes couples might call each other Kalu and Kali (black) or Budha/Budhi (husband/wife).

So now that I’ve embarrassed myself with nicknames and pet names, what do you guys call each other?

13 responses to “Nicknames and Pet Names

  1. hahahha mine is “lyangre” “labe” “lyang” “tang” “ostrich” “lanky” “tanky” “baaje” “baahun” “kafle” “kafal baaje” kafal”

  2. I’m the same with my kitten. Her official name is Lola but I call her kuch kuch, fuchu, kaley, edward scissorhands etc. My fiance calls me munchkins (which can be embarrassing in public) though my family nickname is Puki (because I had chubby cheeks as a baby–I guess an approximate translation for that would be puffy).

  3. Lol! I have plenty of pet names people call me by! Roshni, meaning light, often gets shortened to Rosha, Washa, Roshers, Rosh, or tubelight, the bulb, chand, chandni etc!
    During childhood, I used to get called Roofis, (or doofis!), plays on my Christian Name: Ruth!
    My husband doesn’t have any pet names though! In Persian, you don’t really call your husband by his name in public! You might call him jaan (beloved), janam or azizam (dearest one), and I do that but his name is sort-of too short to be shortened, will have a think and see what I might come up with!

    Mind you, come to think of it; I sometimes call him ‘khormaloo-e-man (my percimmon fruit!), odd I know, but he introduced me to the fruit, and I really loved it to the point of obsession and …, hmm I guess you just had to be there!

  4. Monkey is the most used, we switch between nepali and english versions. Otherwise it is budda or budi. We don’t really use names… actually I don’t know if i have ever heard my husband call me by my name.

  5. it seems like AmericanNepali have not been active on blog. Whats up woman?

  6. I just learned something new, that Budha/Budhi is husband/wife. We use that sometimes but it was explained that it meant more like ol’ man/ol’ lady. I guess its like a slang, like saying “She my ol’ lady” to mean “She’s my wife.” More often then not, we both refer to each other as Maaya.

    My daughter gets covered in all the nick name categories. She has a silly nick name which is a combination of parts of her first and middle name. She has a food based name, Sugar Plum, and even an animal based name Sunshine Bear. Strangely enough, I had a Funshine Bear Carebear growing up that went everywhere with me, though I don’t think this influenced my daughter’s nickname.

  7. I have been given more names than I could ever list, jhole which means hippy, nikini which I think means female control freak, bhola crazy, kali for when Im in a bad mood & Tharuni which is some sort of reference to tharu women,for when Im being difficult & he also makes up words. We call each other Rani & Raja (with heavy dose of sarcasm) Burri & Burra ( no idea how to spell that ).

  8. I’ve never heard my parents call each other by their names and I think that’s kind of rubbed off onto me…I feel weird addressing L directly by his name (unless I’m telling him off ;)), and usually go with something like “hun”.
    I think Baba is a generic term for everyone…my dad calls me that all the time, along with Chori.

  9. hehehe yes baba is lovely , nanu, bhunti punti kali dalli mori maranchyasi (too thin) matteki, plappeki naapeki … many nepali words

  10. Do swear words count? Haha. (I’m the American in the relationship, btw) Back in the courtship days we would call each other ‘mayalu’ (and sometimes I was ‘runchi’ too – his fault, I would say, but probably hormone-caused) but now we are extremely boring: both of us are “honey”. He used to be called “moshine” (sp?) growing up in the village, and my dad used to sarcastically call me ‘tiny’ when I became a teenager and definitely not tiny. So we were both called tiny, so cute, right? He won’t let me tell anyone here in the US what he used to be called, but sometimes he’ll call back to Nepal and they won’t recognize him by his real name even after numerous repetitions and he has to stoop to the old nickname, hehe. I had some horrible nicknames as a kid and my mom still calls me them IN PUBLIC. I am almost 30!!! I know you’re thinking, it can’t be that bad. So I will tell you: twilly, toothead, tooty, toot. FACEPALM

  11. hahaha @Anju, thats wonderful; Ia m 35 and me too getting same special pet names on me, muhaaa, love the style of the world

  12. Loved this post. Made me laugh :) I told Simba if we have kids I get to pick their names because he will just change them anyway and come up with a million nicknames for them. But I grew up with lots of nicknames from my family and friends and Simba is still called Boka (goat, ha) by his good friends. He gets mad when I call him that though.

  13. I have heard “Baba” being used to address the guy in a relationship quite often, we use Buda and Budi although we’re not married yet, I even call him “Raja” when I want special favors like…”Mero Raaajaaaa, gyaaani cha, tyo fohor saafa gara ta afai”, it means something like, “My king, you are so kind, please clean that mess by yourself(meaning you can do it)”, this always makes him all mushy and I get a clean counter :D.

    Also my mum used to wake me up with something like “Raaaani beti utha aath baji sakyo” which mean “Queen daughter, please wake up, its already 8 am “

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