I Love You, Captain Jebediah Monkeyface

One of the biggest signs that you’ve moved from “dating” to “in a relationship” is when pet names start popping up; when you go from saying, “hey, First Name” to “hey, babycakes.”

English has a wide variety of pet names, like dear, honey, darling, sweetheart, baby, babycakes, sweetcheeks, love, muffin, babycheeks, honeybaby, and sweet-dear-cheeksbaby-muffin.

Most couples will use most of these, at different times. You see, without even realizing it, most of us have made pet names situational. They’re not interchangeable. Honey is standard, sweetheart is really sweet, and darling has a romantic elegance to it. Nobody calls their partner “darling” while sorting the garbage. You save that for candlelit dinners and drinks at the Violet Hour.

Similarly, the word “dear” is usually followed by a request, order, or veiled threat. Like your middle name, it’s innocuous on paper, but sends shivers down the spine when spoken allowed by a loved one. The famous line near the end of Gone With the Wind isn’t cutting because Rhett Butler tells Scarlett he doesn’t give a damn, but because he calls her “my dear.” Ouch.

I’m always curious to know what pet names get used in other cultures. In Japan, even today, women will sometimes call their husbands anata, which is a formal way of saying “you.” This seems weird to me, like the wife forgot her husband’s name years ago but is too embarrassed to admit it, thus making every encounter awkward: “I love you so much, you.”

Like a lot of couples, Ayako and I have developed our own nicknames for each other. But because I am a crazy person, they are not normal. I don’t call Ayako honey, or baby, or darling.

No, through a series of circumstances so drawn out and byzantine that even I don’t know understand how we got there, I have come to call my girlfriend by the pet name “Captain Jebediah Monkeyface.” And around our apartment, I am known as “Commander Wellington Sheeppants.”

It’s not “honey” or “sweetheart,” but when I hear them, they’re the sweetest words I know.

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5 Comments

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  1. Aww…. my brother and his wife call each other “Sweetie Sweetie” and “Precious Precious.” The repeats are nauseating. I much prefer Captain Jebediah Monkeyface… Another friend calls his wife “bee shit” instead of honey. I’m a fan of that, too.

  2. Those are brilliant.

    You might be aware that I wouldn’t even respond to my wife were she to call me by my actual name, so long has it been since she’s used it. Back in her apartment in Hyde Park (nigh on 7 years) I once asked her what my name might be had she never met me. She chose Ferdinand.

    To this day I am ‘Ferd’. Almost exclusively. This is sometimes mutated (because my wife is deranged) into ‘Ferdleby’ or ‘FB’ or just ‘Effer’.

    We also subvert the sickly sweet stereotypes by commonly referring to each other as ‘Stinkman’ despite the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t smell bad.

  3. Those are great, but do they translate?

    I don’t know a Japanese American analogue, but when Chinese wives joined their husbands in America after 1943 an issue that repeatedly surfaced in Chinese American newspapers was pet names. Husbands worried that they couldn’t get their wives to respond to/call them honey or darling. The columnists advised giving the new migrants time, but I wonder if things would have worked better with your solution.

  4. Doug- ah, I always wondered how you ended up as Ferd or F. Ferdleby is great. You should always be Ferdleby.

    I won’t comment on your, or your wife’s, body odor. The rest of us in MAPH vowed seven years ago to never discuss that.

    Jason- Interesting about the Chinese immigrants. We actually also use the Japanese translations. Ayako is 猿顔船長 (Sarugao-sencho) and I am 羊ズボン司令官 (Hitsujizubon-shireikan). I sometimes used to call her 蜂蜜 (Hachimitsu, Japanese for honey), but it was understandably replaced by the much more appropriate Captain Jebediah Monkeyface.

  5. http://icanhascheezburger.com/2010/08/02/funny-pictures-sausage-pants/

    This reminded me of your Capt Wellington Sheeppants name… Oh, hahaha! Sausage pants…

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