My question may seem very vague, so I shall try and clarify what I mean by bizarre. Here are a few examples of terms of endearment that I had in mind while posing this question:

Mon chou (literally meaning - my cabbage )
Mon coco (literally meaning - my egg )
Mon canard (literally meaning - my duck )
Ma crotte (literally meaning - my dropping )
Ma loutre (literally meaning - my otter )
Ma puce (literally meaning - my flea )
Mon sucre d'orge (literally meaning - my barley sugar )

Why is that these terms of endearment include so many references to food items and animals? Is there any culture significance or linguistic reason to account for this? Terms like 'dropping', 'flea' and 'cabbage' seem almost unimaginable to associate with endearments.

  • 6
    Chou is not bizarre, it is said to derive from choyer (to pet). No more bizarre to call so mon canard than to call them duck" (a very popular term of endearment in English as well!). Barley sugar is sort of sweet so how can it be more bizarre than "honey" or "sweetie"? Loutre or puce are no more bizarre than "bunny". Coco as a term of endearment is not derived from the child term for an egg but from the fruit of the coconut tree ; and some French natives would argue that calling so mon coco is a term of endearment! Seems your question is based on false assumptions.
    – None
    Sep 15 '15 at 16:17
  • 2
    Not that it matters here (because terms of endearment originated where they originated and mean what they mean to those hearing and saying them), but when I hear and use “mon chou” and “ma crotte,” I’m thinking “chou à la crème” and “crotte de chocolat.” miam-miam ! (Par contre, chuis pas sûr à quoi je penserais en entendant “Mon Suchard” !)
    – Papa Poule
    Sep 15 '15 at 22:44

Langage familier :

  • Mon chou fait référence à chou-ette, être chouette (animal nocturne par excellence, avec un regard fascinant), c'est être sympathique, amical, bienveillant.

  • Mon coco, référence moins l'œuf que la poule maternelle, douillette (à cause de son duvet ventral), protectrice de ses petits.

  • Mon canard est un terme d'affection, je l'ai entendu adressé à des gens qui parlent beaucoup, "coin-coin, coin-coin-coin...", c'est surtout un mot intime qu'une femme peut adresser à son mari, problème de cou.

  • Ma crotte entendu quelque fois adressé par une mère à son jeune bébé... problème de langes.

  • Ma loutre plutôt rare, la loutre est un chat aquatique, elle est très souple, très intelligente et à un poil très chaud, très doux.

  • Ma puce encore une référence (en général maternelle) à une très jeune fille, question de différence de taille.

  • Mon sucre d'orge : Tu n'es que douceur, tu fonds sous mes baisers, adressé à un enfant ; sinon Serge Gainsbourg en a fait une chanson (avec des sucettes, confiserie semblable au sucre d'orge).

  • 1
    This is the best answer so far, in terms that the analogies provided make sense in explaining the endearments! Sep 16 '15 at 18:03

well... it's all a matter of perspective. You could do the same analysis for Enghlish terms:

Baby: seriously, you call someone you put your penis in "my baby" ? I cannot even start how it made me cringe: it's pedophiliac as well as incestuous...

Daddy: (as in Marylin Monroe's song). No comment.

Sugar: meaning within the range of all the sweet things on earth, you're the blandest tasteless, non unique one.

Honey: bee's puke ?

My sweetheart: my diabetic blood pump, why not "my pickled lung" ?

It's because you're not a native that it looks weird to you. It's part of the pleasure of speaking more thant one language.

  • 2
    Excellent answer... I guess any metaphorical expressions looks weird to a newcomer. That said I've always found "ma crotte" a bit weird myself, as I don't find t very cute to call someone a turd ... Same thing applies for "non-endearment" expressions. "It's raining cats and dogs / Il pleut des hallebardes""
    – Laurent S.
    Sep 16 '15 at 12:49
  • I absolutely agree with your views on perspective. In fact, I was considering not posting this question dreading this answer. However, I think my question is more a linguistic one than one limited to the French language. I agree all these examples in English seem bizarre too. So is there any other reason why these phrases are so formed (in any language)? Answers like the one provided by @cl-r would be appreciated! Sep 16 '15 at 18:05
  • Well, a baby (sometimes) does come out from where the penis gets put in, so... Sep 18 '15 at 9:51
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    @user3182445 a lot comes from the fact that hte meaning of an expression might get fixed at the time when the central word had an other meaning but the meaning evolved for the word in its own. i.e: "crotte" meant a lump of earth before being used for a lump of crap by analogy. That explains why it's used for a cheese, a term of love etc. As in English, "bottom", for example , in a lot of expression is used for it's original meaning (the lower end part of sthg), and not the figurative one (one's ass)
    – P. O.
    Sep 18 '15 at 11:42

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