Sunday, August 2, 2015

Terms of Endearment

The first line of this poem is true.
The rest is made up.


He called her chou

which in French means cabbage.
A term of endearment, mon petit chou
my little cabbage -
only she wasn't little
and she wasn't his.

He darlinged and sweetied his wife
the way one says "It's raining" or
"Pour me a coffee."
His wife was not darlingable
and the sweetness in her heart
had long soured.

He wondered how it had come to this -
how strange is life, how
"Darling, turn out the light please,"
he said, inviting sleep
so he could be,
      at least in dreams,
with Chou.


I once knew a couple named Jim and Jinx. Nelda was Jinx's birth name but everybody called her Jinx.
The first time I'd met them, at the dinner table, Jim addressed, or referred to Jinx alternately as "Ace", "Meister", and "Fred".
               "Remember that time we went there, Ace?"
               "You'd better go check on the chicken, Meister."
               "Fred here, was a sociology major."
It was a bit confusing, because Jinx also called Jim "Ace".  So they were both, somehow, "Ace.".

Names we call one another. "Il m'appelle mon ange.   He calls me "my angel", someone wrote once, overwhelmed, because she was anything but.  But repeat a thing long enough and the person will come to believe it. In essence he was just saying "You are loved. You are loved. You are loved." And that is enough to drive away any lingering demons of disbelief.  Google Translate translates mon ange as "Sweetie". I prefer the literal translation.  Sweetie seems so . . . common. Nothing nearly as lofty or endearing as "angel". (As if we could really become angels, but it's the thought that counts, right?)

My mate just informed me that chou can mean more than just cabbage. It could refer to a sort of cream cake.  (Another type of 'sweetie').  Which answered my initial question as to why would someone refer endearingly to a loved one as a cabbage.  Then I remembered George.  George was a dear family friend and elderly suitor of my widowed mother and he used to call her "Peanut"--probably because she was so much shorter than him.   Tall people and short people, big people and little people. In Greece, I once heard a child being addressed as πουλάκι μου, "my little bird".  In French Canada, puppies are sometimes named 'ti-loup (a contraction of petit loup, meaning "little wolf").  Someone I know here refers to his cat as ma petite fille  (lit.: my little girl/daughter). Terms of endearment. 

The adjective "little" applied to another may have nothing to do with age or size.  It could signify an acknowledged innocence, fragility, or specialness.  Something precious that one recognizes the value of, that one wishes to watch out for and protect.   The "my" prefacing it, while it could indicate a perceived claim to ownership, also could merely be acknowledgment of one's involvement on a slightly higher level, than if, for example, one were to phrase it merely "you little" whatever.  (MY little cabbage, MY little wolf, MY little bird.) Not that Honey, Sweetie, Darling, even Babe, because of their commonness, don't signify endearment.    But it's interesting to hear creative alternatives and wonder as to their origins.