This article first appeared in VICE UK.
Public terms of endearment play a vital function in how we present our relationships to the outside world. The titles we decorate our loved ones with are words that honour them in ways simply saying their name never could. They infer fondness, time spent together, intimacy, tension, background, hopes and desires.
With all that beauty and meaning in mind, let's making some ramshackle claims as to What Your Pet Name Says About You – shall we?
A lot of people say "babe", but really the purpose of its existence is to be spoken by lads who are in trouble with their girlfriends. It is a word for them to say over and over again, pleadingly, while their spurned lover leaves the house with her handbag swinging and her head held high. "Babe!" She is down the stairs. "Babe!" She is out door. "Babe!" She's in her car. "Babe!" And she's pulling away. "Babe! Babe! Babe…" he cries as his Ugg boots slap the pavement in hot pursuit.
I've always thought there's a strangely potent romance to this pet name. In the space of two words it affords your partner a status that is both symbiotic and godly. They are both part of you, and greater than you could ever hope to be. Shame, then, that it's only ever used by your dad when he's picked up a phone call intended for your mum.
The only time you actually refer to someone as your "friend" out loud is when you are suddenly forced to introduce someone you've been having regular but undefined sex with. It is the word you say in the panicked, sweat-drenched moment when you suddenly realise you have no idea if you are in a relationship with this person or not. The "f" normally lasts around seven minutes.
You are not in a relationship but you have very high Reddit kudos on r/Relationships.
Day at the seaside with this one. Don't know where I'd be without this one. Bit of Carluccio's and La La Land with this one. Missing Paris times with this one. Three years since I first went on a date with this one. Gotta love staying in and acting like a twat with this one. Cheeky visit to Goonhavern model village with this one. Sad times at mum's funeral with this one. Classic hot choc and Ben and Jerry's with this one. She hates it when I take her photo but I can't resist with this one. Building a nuclear bunker with this one. Cooked my first ever roast for this one. Cheeky salsa dancing lesson with this one. Nobody I'd rather watch flames fall from the sky with than this one. Just did a random but actually quite great basket weaving lesson with this one. Is anyone reading my Facebook posts about this one? Shouting into the abyss with this one. Cheeky end times with this one. #GirlfriendsOfInstagram
You are explaining to your mates that you can't do something with them because you said you'd cook dinner with the missus. You are making it sound like this is a burden, and that really you wish you could drink five pints of Doombar and talk about Lee Dixon with them. In reality, the shrugging masks a deep and discerning love for your partner. As it happens you'd trade infinite pub trips just to spend an hour in a darkened room thinking about her, let alone actually spending time in her presence. You are eternally hers, nothing will change that, nor would you will it to. But, y'know, best shrug and say something about "the missus" cos otherwise someone might think you're wet or something.
He's good, my fella – I've trained him well! Look at him cooking dinner! No, in all seriousness, he's fab, he's very good to me, I don't deserve him. Have you met my fella, Dawn? I'm a bossy boots me, but he loves me really. Don't you? Paul? Don't you? Yes he's nodding, bless him. Probably thinking 'bugger off you mad woman!' No, I'm only joking, I'm very lucky to have him. Cheryl, have you met my fella? My wonderful man. Oi, hands off – he's taken! No, in all seriousness don't touch him.
Every now and again some soppy sod reckons he's the first person in the world to think, 'Hey, you're not just my girlfriend/boyfriend – you're actually, like, my best friend as well.' As though they've suddenly realised that unlike all the other relationships between people, theirs is unique in that they are bloody mates as well! Where other people merely eat, fuck and shit in the same building like quarantined boars and sows, they actually do matey stuff like watch Stranger Things and chat about work. She might be a girl, but she actually likes playing Fifa! We both think Coldplay are rubbish! We swap books! How truly blessed you are to be the only people ever in the history of copulation to consider your long-term sexual partner your best friend.
Either you've found permanent happiness or you're overdoing it slightly and about to be lonely again.
There's a quiet smugness to "my other half", as though it's been said by someone who still can't get over the fact they are in a relationship. Most likely heard when you run into the lad you went to school with, the one who spent his lunch breaks reading Neil Gaiman novels but now has a good job and a spotty beard. "I shall have to introduce you to my other half," he adds before you part ways, a grin spreading across his face. And you know what? Fair fucks to him. He looks happy.
I don't think anyone in their right mind would refer to their own partner as their squeeze, but it is possible one of the more rosy-cheeked, lecherous members of your grandparents' squad might throw a "this must be your new squeeze" in for good measure when they meet your boyfriend/girlfriend at a christening.
I think you only get to use this word if you marry a big muscly fireman.
You watch the slow roll of muddy cappuccino down the inside of the cup, through the moustache and into his throat, the squelching noise your uncle makes as he swallows. The windscreen wipers shuffle back and forth, and you find yourself tracing the refracted light as street lamps pass through specks of rain on the window. The phone buzzes. It's his wife, your aunt. "BAGS" it reads, bluntly. He sighs through his nose. He stretches an arm into the footwell between your legs to retrieve three bunched up bags for life. "Bag for life," he says, turning to you, "I've already got one of them!"
Before he can finish his sentence, before you can pretend to laugh, his phone is ringing. It's your aunt again. Did he just mutter the word Medusa? He picks up. "Yes, yes bags, I got your message, your text, yes, I'm holding them in my hand now, I'm coming in to meet you now." He removes the phone from his face, stares at it blankly for a moment or two, then pointedly presses the red button to end the call. He sighs through his nose again. "You going to be alright in the car?" he asks you, to which you nod. You're already thinking about putting the radio on once he's closed the door. "She's at one of those self-service tills," he tells you, "so she needs more bags." He pauses and sighs through his nose one final time, resigned to his fate. "Better do what the boss says!" He opens the door and folds his legs out into the cold, whipping rain.
Going down on your girlfriend twice a year doesn't count as criminal activity.