Terms of endearment…confusing at best


By Bill Derby

Southerners heap huge amounts of syrupy slang on their fellow citizens just about everywhere you go. Most times it’s easy to tell where a person is from by their accent, mannerisms or terms of endearment.

I’m not out to start a war but danged if I didn’t get ambushed yesterday in a local store. I was browsing, looking to purchase a comfortable cushioned floor mat for the kitchen and looking through a whole assortment of colors. I called Judy on my electric phone for the perfect color. She told me gray. There were two gray-colored mats to choose from.

The lady standing next to me was being helped by a young lady clerk. I could hear her asking very pointed questions about the product she was buying. I could tell she was from between Connecticut and New Jersey east of Pennsylvania, from a city locals consider the center of the universe and capital of the world. She was very curt with the young clerk.

By then I had pulled out two similar gray-looking mats. One was solid and the other with a pattern. I was thinking maybe a female might have a better idea for the color. By then the sales clerk had left the lady and I very pleasantly asked her, “Ma’am, do you think this is a gray color?”

She looked at me as if in shock and exclaimed, “I wouldn’t have a clue!” and continued her grumpy purchase. I muttered something to myself a little shocked at such a sharp reproach. That lady would not qualify for one of my terms of endearment.

Judy gets on me for babbling terms of endearment to casual folks. Comes natural to a southern boy and it’s hard not to. When we go out to eat I always, compliment the person who seats us, (usually a young girl), with a “thanks honey or a thank you dear.” I figure if there’s enough syrup we’ll surely get some fine service. The waitress gets the same, maybe with a little more emphasis like, “thanks sweetie or thank you hon.”

We just got back from our annual trek to the south of ‘LA’ in Destin, FL. They still speak southern down there. Our families from Tenn., Texas and West Virginia have been meeting in Destin for the past 30 years. Today, the roads are paved and I only saw one dead armadillo on the way down but it’s still a hard drive to get to such a beautiful spot.

My favorite place to go each year is Sexton’s Fish Market for deliciously fresh shrimp just out of the ocean. The fish market is full of every tasty fish available in the gulf. I like to load up with shrimp and eat them all week, boiled, broiled, sautéed, BBQued, in the shell, out of the shell or whatever.  I told the lady at Sexton’s we’ve been coming to Sexton’s for 30 years. She said, “Honey, I’m sure I waited on you.”  There you go, another term of endearment.

It’s okay to sweeten your communication with a little syrup like: darlin’, cupcake, sweetie-pie, honey-pie, dumpling, sugar cakes, or even dear.  But, sometimes you need to be careful and not overdo it. Your drips of sweetness must be controlled not overdone. It’s easy to tell whether it’s a true southern term of endearment or subterfuge to gain an advantage.

Can you imagine President Trump sending a Twitter message addressed to ‘darlin cupcake Nancy Pelosi?’  That won’t work.

Another term you might hear in a drinking establishment is, ‘hey baby.’  That expletive is usually uttered after about 30 minutes in the establishment and not considered an endearment. There are also other coated sweetness terms that don’t meet the standard like ‘sugar-daddy.’

I guess some would enjoy having a sugar-daddy and they sure do taste good and last for at least 30 minutes.

I’m not sure what terms of endearment they might use up north. It could be, “Thanks so very much, ‘you bagel-looking, cream-pie!”


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