Pet names: ways of showing friendliness
In Britain there we have a funny habit that will either make you wonder what on earth is going on, or make you feel right at home! ‘Pet names’, have developed across each part of each of the countries. These are little terms of endearment, and can be used in public, by anyone, at almost any time.
You’ll hear the little old lady/man in the local shop say “There you go love” as they hand you your biscuits, though you’ve never been to their shop before, hairdressers and waitresses will greet you with “Hello my love” or “Hi hon’”, and strangers will say “Cheers sweetie!” if you do something to help; Boys will call to each other “Alright mate!” (even if they’ve never met before, and aren’t mates at all!). These words are used so often in fact, that in some parts of the country, you might notice more if they are not used than when they are!
Many foreigners to Britain find these terms of endearment to strangers really eccentric when they first arrive, but grow to realize that they are simply ways of showing friendliness; and many of us miss these little terms a lot when we move elsewhere!
Differences across the country
Let’s have a look at differences across the country, starting at the top!
North England: Duck, My lovely, lovey, petal, flower
South England: Love, darlin’, sweetie, treacle, poppet
Contexts in which to use Pet names…
I find that usually people who deal with a lot of general public will use these words just as a natural part of speech: waitresses, shop keepers, hairdressers, car mechanics, builders, workmen. People in professional environments tend not to use them so much! It's a kind of casual language, but people who work in environments where there's no need to be formal, will just use them in every part of life, with friends, family and probably with you, if you are ever in Britain!
So the rules on using these words are, only when you feel comfortable! How you use them and how often are really just a reflection of personal taste. Some people use them all the time (e.g. shop keepers/ waitresses), others, just when they feel like it, or around friends (which is what I usually do!). Avoid using them in professional environments, such as at business meetings, although, even here, you may not always be safe from hearing them!
Advice for you…
So the rules on using these words are, only when you feel comfortable! How you use them and how often are really just a reflection of personal taste. Some people use them all the time (e.g. shop keepers/ waitresses), others, just when they feel like it, or around friends (which is what I usually do!). Avoid using them in professional environments, such as at business meetings, although, even here, you may not always be safe from hearing them! Oh, and one last thing, when talking to boy to boy… stick with ‘mate’, ‘fella’, or ‘chief’! Not many boys will appreciate being called ’love’ by another boy.
英国人还喜以动物称人，意思不雅的不论，常见的便有bird。常常听酒吧同事谈到谁谁谁的bird长得sexy，谁谁谁最近又吊了个bird。互相之间问话也会说：“Is that one your bird?”在Newcastle和Cathy过千禧，元旦凌晨两点蜷在沙发里看电视，看到女王和众高官贵宾挽手共唱《友谊地久天长》，女王陛下却挽错了手，CATHY就笑骂：“That silly old bird!”Cow也是很常用的一个字，却是仅有贬义的了。
也在那个关于文化冲击的讲座里，我们的国际办公室的负责人说他上大学的地方好称人为duck。他说大学三年，算是习惯了当duck，要叫别人却是怎么也叫不出口。无独有偶，两月后我找到新工作，同事一个女孩便爱亲亲热热叫我pet，有事无事来问候一句“Are you alright, pet?”耳朵遂发麻，自觉还是当duck的滋味好一些些。