Have you ever thought about the strange idioms we use? In English, we will “fly by the seat of our pants” when we don’t know what we’re doing, if we succeed it might be by the “skin of our teeth,” and when we’re done with it all, we “hit the sack.” We “fall head over heels” when we’re “smitten” with someone, and it becomes a “match made in heaven.” Every language has its metaphors and idioms, including bizarre pet names. Pet names are ways that we cuddle with our words, or express affection. While every language has its own variations on “darling” or “my love,” some have pet names that just don’t make sense after they’re translated into English. Here, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve compiled some of our favorite odd ones in an effort to see how they vary across cultures. These might not be frequently used everywhere, but it’s interesting to learn about how pet names evolve with a theme in different languages.
Let’s start with French. It seems the French love to call each other by names of different animals. These might come off as a little bizarre to native English speakers.
- Minou – kitty
- Mon gros – my fat one
- Ma crevette – my shrimp
- Mon biquet – my goat child
- Ma puce – my flea
- Ma sardine – my sardine
In contrast to French, Germans seem to play with combining words into rather long combinations that must be translated with more than one word – anyone who speaks some German is probably not surprised by this, as German words are often very long. It also seems Germans are not satisfied with simply an object; they must be very specific about which part of that object they are referring to.
- Knuddelbär – cuddle bear
- Schmusebacke – Shmooshed cheeks
- Mausezänchen – Little mouse teeth
- Igelschnäuzchen – Little hedgehog nose
- Knutschkugel – Smooch ball
- Schnurzelpurzel – not really a word; it just rhymes with itself.
Spanish is less specific, but seems to be more particular about the size of the object – smaller things seem to be the theme here.
- Mi media naranja – my half an orange (“my other half”)
- Pinchonchito/a – little pigeon
- Gordito – little fatty
- Mi bichito – my little bug
- Mi cielito – my little sky
- Mi sirenita – my little mermaid
Mandarin seems to make plenty of references to seemingly obscure animals, including a goblin. It probably also just takes a special kind of couple to be OK with calling one another “pig head.”
- 猪头 Zhutou – pig head
- 傻瓜 Shǎguā – Fool; Stupid.
- 小猪公 Xiǎo zhū gong – Little Pig Husband
- 小妖精 Xiǎo yāo jing – Little goblin
- 小蚯蚓 Xiao qiu yin – Small earthworm
- 大野猪 Da ye zhu – Big wild boar
We would be remiss if we didn’t bring out some fun ones for our English language learners. While other languages often refer to animals, English appears to make many references to desserts. Americans, close your eyes – these are a bit cringe-worthy.
- Sugar Pie
- Snookums – who knows what this means, but we’ve all heard it!
- Sugar Daddy (for men, obviously)
So there you have it: every culture has its own special pet names. Do you know any other fun pet names from other languages? Feel free to share in the comment section!