Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What's that, darling?

Single parent dad, in his latest post, has set me thinking. How do families acquire those strange, highly personal terms of endearment for their loved ones? There must be a story to explain them, but can anyone remember it? I vividly remember trying to put a cardigan on Sally when she was no older than Charlie (eight months or so) and maybe even younger; she was sitting on my knee and crying in that not-too-distressed-but-feeling-sorry-for-myself manner babies sometimes have, and I comforted her as I tried to feed her flailing arms through uncooperative sleeves by saying something like, 'ah little dolly, don't get upset'. It came from nowhere, and it stuck. And she's been Dolly, or it's variants (including Dolly Daydream - which needs no further explanation - ever since). Similarly, Charlie seems to have acquired 'Pinkle' (which looks daft written down) or 'Pinkle Winkle' (yes, I know) out of nowhere. That's when Sally isn't referring to him as 'Fish'. And I'm not calling her, on his behalf, his 'blister'. I suppose they're both most frequently referred to, though, as 'darling'. In fact, it becomes such a habit that I caught myself several times last year referring to my pupils from time to time as 'darling' which - at an all-boys school - can be embarrassing (and more for them than me)! Maybe as a family we're more tuned in to nicknames than some. We make up names for many of our friends and neighbours (nothing I could risk repeating here) and even have daft names for various places that we're in the habit of visiting. It could be worse, though: I remember Jake Thackray talking (and singing) hilariously about inventing an entire repertoire of family songs - little ditties about relatives and friends all innocent enough, but which you wouldn't necessarily want performed before the person concerned. All of which made keeping a straight face next to impossible when they next 'phoned or appeared at the front door and someone gently started humming their refrain from somewhere in the background!
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