By Avery B.
Hun. Babe. Love muffin. Snugglebug. By reading these four names you can begin to picture a couple canoodling, showing their affection for each other. The majority of people can agree, even if they haven’t been in a relationship, that pet names and terms of endearment, of all sorts, are components that naturally come along with being romantically involved with someone. Although this might not be the case everywhere around the world, in the United States, couples aren’t discouraged from displaying their love openly through their communication with one another.
When an interpretive anthropologist looks at this phenomenon, they analyze how learning and sharing these romantic symbols throughout our lives leads to the continuity of this occurrence.1 As we grow up, we pick up on the symbols of romantic relationships in a variety of ways. We are exposed to our parents and other family members calling each other affectionate terms, like babe and hunny, and begin to correlate the use of those terms with affection. In addition, we learn the expectation to use terms of endearment through the media we are exposed to. Movies and tv shows are constantly filled with romance and show us what actions relay affection. We pick up on how couples should talk to each other and that their love is demonstrated through symbols like terms of endearment. The interpretive anthropologist would say we pick up on the fact that pet names are symbols for love that carry meaning of affection within our culture. However, they would also emphasize that without our specific cultural context, these symbols of love hold no meaning. Calling someone outside of our culture love muffin would lead to confusion, but Americans have a shared understanding that this term has an affectionate meaning. The interpretive anthropologist would also add that overtime everyone in the culture learns these symbols and interprets how they should act because of them, which carries on this phenomenon.1 Eventually, we all begin to use pet names in our relationships as symbols for our affection.
A structural functionalist would pay attention to how using terms of endearment is a common practice within our society and functions as a way of showing affection within social relations. For example, men are seen as tough and dominant in our society. However, when they are in a relationship it is expected that they show a softer side and express their emotions openly. Using names like babe functions as a way of showing their affection. By taking part in this practice, they are able to build a stronger bond with their partner. In conflict with that, men are not supposed to use these terms with their friends. Due to the fact that calling a romantic partner a pet name functions as a way to show affection, comfort and closeness, exercising this practice within a group of men is not consistent with their image of strength. Therefore, we can see how affectionate pet names act as a structural component of solely intimate relationships.
1http://anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29532647/Symbolic%20and%20Interpretive%20Anthropology#MainPoints, accessed 27 February 2019.