There do. All the terms of endearment we have are demeaning, cutesy, or too casual. They're not loving words. Girlfriend/boyfriend? People use it when they've dated for two weeks and will be broken up by three. For crying out loud, some FIFTH-GRADERS use it. "Significant other" is still too technical. What's left? "Lover" is going to raise some eyebrows these days; it used to be acceptable. My honey? Yechh. In Chinese, you can say "my beloved one," which is quite nice, but sounds pretentious in English. I think there are some nice terms in Japanese, too. English just doesn't cut it in this area--usually it has a plethora of synonyms with various shades of meaning, but not here. It's bothersome and, really, a little bit sad, I think.

My friend Susan came up with this one while she was dating Mike (and still cool):
Use it in good health.

Miss Manners first and foremost suggests the simple term "friend", taking the view that one's sex life is not a proper subject of discussion in polite society. If you introduce your date by saying "This is my friend Jane", others will pretty much get your meaning without you having to add "...whom I'm currently sleeping with." It also has the advantage of being non-gender specific.

Among the words we use in Denmark is the gender-neutral "kæreste", which means "dearest one" (roughly translated, "Min kæreste" = "my dearest one"). It is pronounced like "caress-T" (etymologically, they are related, obviously!). It does sound a bit pretentious in English, but it's certainly not as bad as some of the other words we tend to use... (my woman, the hole - yeesh!, et cetera)

Audited March 22, 2002

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