Expecting couples spend hours poring over baby name websites and books, scouring publications for the most adventurous-sounding, charmingly uncommon, or historical names for their soon-to-be little one. But chances are, once their baby arrives, they鈥檒l continue to call him or her just that: 鈥渂aby鈥 鈥 or some other pet name, such as 鈥渟weetie,鈥 鈥渃utie pie,鈥 and 鈥減umpkin.鈥 Although legal names are essential to our identity, we鈥檒l likely be called something else by our loved ones, including family, friends, and romantic partners, all our lives. People seem to have an irresistible urge to call others these sweet nicknames (and be called by nicknames themselves). But why? Ross Grossman, Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and founder of Affinity Therapy Services, explains why many people prefer pet names and how they can have more purposes than they initially seem to.

Couple snuggling on sofa

At their crux, nicknames signify affection, Grossman says, which is why most people reserve these terms of endearment for special someones. 鈥淚t tells the other person, 鈥業 think you鈥檙e more than your given name,'鈥 Grossman explains. And depending on the pet name, it can indicate the nature of the giver and the recipient鈥檚 relationship and oftentimes, that it鈥檚 a relationship unlike any other. 鈥淐alling someone 鈥榩umpkin,鈥 鈥榖uttercup,鈥 or 鈥榖oo鈥 is saying, 鈥榃e鈥檝e got something personal and special that no one else has,'鈥 he notes.

These more innocent aforementioned pet names can be applied to a variety of different types of relationships: familial, platonic, and romantic. But Grossman explains that sometimes, pet names among couples can be more implicitly sultry. 鈥淚f two lovers are role-playing in the bedroom, and one of them plays an instructor role, the other might refer to them outside the bedroom as 鈥榩rofessor,鈥 allowing both of them to essentially talk about sex in front of strangers without anyone being the wiser,鈥 Grossman says. He likens these types of pet names to a secret handshake or the password to an exclusive club.

But it鈥檚 not all love or passion when it comes to pet names. The dynamic of a relationship can dictate whether pet names are appropriate (and if so, which ones) 鈥 and when they鈥檙e not. Most women are familiar with being called pet names by superiors in the workplace, clients, and random passersby as a thinly veiled form of patronization. (Note the dynamic of all of these relationships 鈥 or lack of relationships.) Furthermore, abusers often employ pet names to get their way. 鈥溾楽weetie,鈥 鈥榙arling,鈥 and 鈥榟oney鈥 can be terms used to leverage a person into doing another person鈥檚 will,鈥 Grossman cautions. 鈥淐alling someone 鈥榤y genius鈥 when asking them to help you cheat on an exam, or 鈥榤y princess鈥 when borrowing money you never intend to return are just a few examples of using a pet name to influence someone to do your bidding.鈥 For this reason, some people might not approve of being called certain pet names; a victimizer might have used these terms in the past. And of course, if you鈥檝e seen the movie John Tucker Must Die then you know that cheaters may use nicknames so they don鈥檛 need to keep their partners鈥 names straight.

Although Grossman understands the inclination to use pet names, he鈥檚 still a proponent of using legal names with loved ones. 鈥淚n the end, though, remember, for many people, the most beautiful sound in the English language is someone else saying their real, given name,鈥 he says.

What are your thoughts on pet names, darlings? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)