Terms of Endearment

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Throughout history, a wide variety of romantic nicknames have passed through the lips of lovers. Many of these are inspired by and reflected in literature. Romeo called Juliet "my sweet," Rhett called Scarlett "my dear" and Torvald Helmer called Nora "my little lark".

Whether you call your main squeeze "stud muffin" or "sweetie pie," you can now find out when your favorite terms of endearment came into vogue and fell out of fashion through the Google Books Ngram Viewer. (The Viewer reveals that "sweetie pie" has grown steadily since the mid-30's while "stud muffin" was last to the love party when it appeared in the late 1980s.)

Comb through more than 500 billion words from more than 5.2 million books spanning from 1500 to 2006 with a few taps and a click. Want to see the words in heart-fluttering context? Click the corresponding links in the table beneath the line graph to browse inside the books where your search terms were found.

Looking for a popular term from a romance language? Très bien! With seven languages including French, you can trace "mon amour," "ma belle," "mon cher" and "mon amie" back to the 1800s.

So no matter what you call your sweetheart this Valentine's Day, impress him or her by knowing the literary history behind your favorite terms of endearment.


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