Oh, I could eat you up.
Hi, Sugar. Sweetheart.
Give me some sugar.
Lips like sugar, sugar kisses.
We frequently express love and desire in food terms. Hi honey! You’re the apple of my eye. Sweetpie. Sweetpea, a personal favorite. All sorts of baked goods are turned into endearments. My little muffin, cupcake, cookie, buttercup. Conversely, a popular chocolate candy is called a Kiss.
Maybe someone wants a sugar daddy or mama. You might think a person is peachy or a cutie pie, a pumpkin or jelly bean. A good looking man could be a stud muffin. I call my dog sweet potato all the time. How many kids are called peanut?
Honey, Yeobo, Hanii
This isn’t just an English language phenomenon. The French may murmur about fruits and vegetables to you. Mon petit chou – which translates as ‘my little cabbage’; mon petit chou-fleur,which is the same but with cauliflower, or ma fraise, ‘my strawberry’.
Hanii is Japanese for honey. Yeobo is used in Korea, also honey. A quick survey of more than 20 languages shows that words for honey, sweetie, and sweetheart were present in most cultures. Whether that is organic in each culture or a result of globalization is to be determined.
Asali wa Moyo means honey for my heart in Swahili, sparking a popular song across Africa. However, don’t call a French person honey, or meil. They will look at you oddly!
The Spanish might call you a half an orange – media naranja – after an ancient tale of humans once together, like an orange, then cleaved.
What if I whisper polpetto in your ear, the sexy sounding Italian word for meatball. Or pasticcino, biscotina. Cupcake and biscuit, respectively. In Poland, I might call you candy (cukiereczku) or raisin (rodzynku) if we are romantic, or a breadcrumb (kruzynko) if you’re a young or elderly relative.
The Dutch have some of the best terms (including one that addresses the opposite of sweet nothings – mijn poepje – my little poop), calling their darlings dropje (licorice) and snoepje (little candy). In Istanbul you might hear people referring to someone as my pistachio (fıstık) or delicious.
The Globalization of Love Language
What has the influence of English – both American and British versions – had on other languages? Certainly English’s evolution is a story of consuming other cultures’ words and phrases. The early Anglo-Saxan Germanic speech that is the basis of English comprises perhaps 20% of what is now spoken.
Colonization works both ways. The Vikings and the French tried colonizing what we know as the British Isles. While they might have left, their words remain. Visible in that last sentence – their, they, them – all are rooted in Old Norse, the Viking tongue.
Of course, it is easy to imagine the links between consumption and love, mouths and romance. If the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach, then it is confirmed globally by love language.