When your boyfriend’s given it to you, you adore it, but if it’s another couple’s nickname? Make us a ginger tea or something, because we suddenly feel nauseous.
Yep, they’re cringey, but nicknames are often part and parcel of a loving relationship. And experts back this idea up.
Carol J. Bruess, who led a study ‘Sweet Pea and ‘Pussy Cat’: An Examination of Idiom Use and Marital Satisfaction Over the Life Cycle,’ for her master’s thesis back in 1993 says that each relationship is a “mini culture”, and that that’s reinforced by nicknames and other private language.
And that they can actually play a pretty important role in keeping you close together.
In an interview with Scientific American, she explained that terms of endearment are important during moments of conflict so we can turn to some humour and playfulness instead:
“I think it’s a really human, natural behaviour to take language and shape it for our own purposes,” she said.
“I think that’s how nicknames evolve. We name things, we give things symbols, and over time we tend to naturally manipulate those symbols toward a certain outcome.”
Both her and Judy C. Pearson, the study’s co-author, described nicknames and other bits of private communication – or in jokes, if you will – as “idiosyncratic communication”.
And they found that it was associated with marital satisfaction.
Interestingly, couples that used it the most were those in their first five years of marriage and who didn’t have children – and they also found that couples got totally used to using them – so used to them, in fact, that they eventually hardly recognised them as out of the ordinary at all.
Or as Bruess described: “It’s become part of the fabric of their relationship.”
So next time you overhear your friend and their significant other calling one another ‘boo’, ‘stud muffin’ or whatever you will, remember that it could be an important part of their relationship.
But still feel free to vomit.
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