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What College Women Think of Being Called ‘Baby’ & Other Pet Names

Once upon a time, Shakespeare poetically pondered, “What’s in a name?” And you know what, we thought that was a great question, but not about just any name: pet names. That’s right, we wanted to ask the not-so age-old question, “What’s in a pet name?” or maybe more accurately, “What do other collegiettes think of pet names?” So we set out to discover what college women really think about pet names by conducting an informal survey of 40 collegiettes. And what we found low-key surprised us.

Babe and baby

Two of the more controversial pet names are “babe” and “baby.” We found that a lot of collegiettes don’t like being called either. Mariel Tishma, a senior at Columbia College Chicago, says she understands that some people don’t like these names because of their “infantilizing undertones.” In our survey, some other collegiettes express the same feelings. But more women, it seems, are okay with babe over “baby,” mostly because “baby” can come off as demeaning, even if that wasn’t intended. More than any other pet names, “babe” and “baby” are the most widely disliked by collegiettes. So maybe go for something sweet and classic, something like…

Darling, sweetheart and honey

Collegiettes like these three more traditional pet names way more than “babe” and “baby.” The thing is, they generally prefer their partner to use just one of them. Some collegiettes said they find these sweeter nicknames a little too cutesy if they are called all them at different times. Overall, though, the majority of college women think these nicknames are cute.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About ‘Love Languages’ & How They Can Improve Your Relationship

Personalized names/Your name

On our pet names quest, the most surprising thing we found was that a lot of women prefer to be called by their given name or by a nickname special to their particular relationship. Katia Davis, a senior at the University of Kentucky, says she prefers when her SO calls her by her name over a pet name.

“While I do like pet names, nothing is more heartwarming to me or serious than when he called me by my name,” she says. “It just feels so intimate when he says something like ‘I love you, Katia’ opposed to ‘I love you, baby.’”

Beyond that, though, some collegiettes’ SOs call them by a unique pet name that is sweet because it came from an inside joke or a special moment between them. Some of the most interesting pet names we found were “turtle duck,” “cabbage patch kid” and “honey bunches of oats.” When you’re in a relationship, it shouldn’t matter how different or obscure the pet name might seem, as long as it makes you happy.

So what did we learn here? We learned that “baby” is controversial, sweet pet names, like sweets themselves, should be used in moderation and that some of the best pet names are some of the most unusual. More importantly, we’ve learned that at the end of the day, most collegiettes are not picky about what pet name(s) their SO calls them, as long as she does not consider the name or her SO’s tone when using the name offensive. Jenna Price, a sophomore at East Carolina University, said it best:

“I [have] realized something,” she says. “I never really cared what [my past SOs] were calling me (as long as it wasn’t disrespectful). I more so cared about the way they said it. It’s all about the inflection in their voice. When someone you love calls you bae, you might role your eyes, but if it’s the right person you’ll be okay with it.”

And that, friends, is what is in a pet name. Shakespeare would be so proud (and probably a little confused by by the word “bae.” Us too, Shakespeare, us too.)

Micki Wagner is a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she is pursuing a major in Magazine Journalism and a minor in Classics. When she's not writing, she can be found watching beauty videos on YouTube, wandering around bookstores and daydreaming about her celebrity crushes. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Micki also writes more personal pieces on her blog at https://theresidentialblonde.com/. You can follow her on Instagram @mickimouse95.