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Off topic: Translating terms of endearment
Thread poster: xxxAnna Blackab
xxxAnna Blackab  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:26
German to English
+ ...
Jul 12, 2007

Hi everyone

This is for the same article as in the thread 'Bilingual relationships.' I'm writing this for a UK website of a national paper for people living abroad. I'd like to include some quotes from people who have had this experience in the article - hence this thread.

There's an aspect of being in a bilingual relationship - i.e. with someone who has a different mother tongue from you - that I'd like to explore and that is terms of endearment like 'darling' 'baby' 'amore' etc.

If you're in a relationship with someone who speaks another language, do you prefer to use terms of endearment in your own language, or the foreign language? Why?

The other thread makes fascinating reading - so I'm sure this one will too. If you'd like to email me instead please contact me via my profile page.


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avsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
English to French
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Foreign language Jul 12, 2007

As surprising as it may seem, I'm more at ease with using a foreign language than my own language when it comes to terms of endearment. I really don't know why, it just comes more naturally!

So in my case, I prefer using English (mostly 'baby') or Dutch ('schatje' or worse 'babytje' )... As for my Dutch husband, I don't know what language he prefers but he almost always uses 'baby', which is a word in both English and Dutch anyway!

[Edited at 2007-07-12 09:58]

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Noni Gilbert
Local time: 03:26
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Different language for different family members Jul 12, 2007

My husband gets cariño/cari (if he's lucky!), and my children do as well, but they also get "sweety pie" and "poppet", both terms which my parents used with me. No previous experience of husbands in English to model myself on, I suppose!

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Two types of endearment Jul 12, 2007

Anna Blackaby wrote:
If you're in a relationship with someone who speaks another language, do you prefer to use terms of endearment in your own language, or the foreign language? Why?

There are two types of endearment, namely that which you call your spouse, and that which you call anyone else. The one used for your spouse is really a personal thing that evolves over a long period. My wife is Dutch and I'm Afrikaans. I usually use Afrikaans words for her, but sometimes I use Dutch words too. I may even use words that are non-offensive in Dutch but slightly offensive in Afrikaans, or vice versa. But the main thing is that our names for each other are really things that have evolved over a period of time, and may not make sense to anyone outside the family, regardless of their language.

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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Foreign better Jul 12, 2007

Funny story: my boyfriend likes to call me 'doudou' (roughly translated as, any childs confort blanket, wooby, teddy bear, etc.)
When visiting my parents, my father was highly surprised and disturbed when he heard his daughter being called Poop!
So now we're careful who we're around when dealing out our endearments. But still it's much sweeter coming from a foreign language.

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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
We use Jul 12, 2007

Hebrew (from me) and Spanish (from my husband) endearments with each other and the kids.

It can be funny to hear the names from the kids. In Hebrew it is common to call partners or kids "mami" or "mama" or "mamaleh/mamileh", which are all derivatives of the same thing (kind of like "mamita" in the most childlike interpretation of it, not the cruising for chicks use...). The other day I heard my four year old scolding her younger sister, saying (in Hebrew) "Mamileh, don't touch that!". Hysterical. I've also heard my two year old calling to her little boyfriend "Veni amorcito".

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Local time: 22:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
A bit off topic ... Jul 12, 2007

... but Anna's question has reminded me of an anecdote heard some years ago in Brussels.

A policeman came across a toddler alone in the street. He was maybe 4 years old , obviously lost and distressed, crying out for his MAMAN!!!!!.

The officer squatted to establish eye contact and asked the boy what his name was. The boy thought for a moment as if trying to remember his name, then he whispered: "Eh toi". Somewhat taken aback the officer asked again: "Tu t'appelles comment?" "Eh toi", repeated the boy, now with the assurance of someone who knows the facts.

The officer's patient attempts to get more than a rather rude 'eh toi' in response to his efforts to establish the identity of the boy came to nothing - until a young woman turned up, obviously angry because the toddler had toddled off while she was busy shopping: "EH TOI!!!! VIENS!", she yelled.

When it comes to terms of 'endearment', I guess almost anything is better than 'eh toi'.


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Anne Goff  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:26
French to English
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Both Jul 12, 2007

I like using both languages.

However, my bilingual friends and I all have fun playing with the more culture-specific terms of endearment. I think it's great fun to take an odd (from my cultural/linguistic p.o.v.) term of endearment in another language, translate it literally into English, and use that.

For instance, calling someone "my little cabbage" from the French "mon petit chou."

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