We’d been dating for four months. We talked on the phone every day, sometimes for hours. He met my mother and asked her to teach him a few words of Lithuanian. Things were going very well on all levels. After one particularly intimate and pleasurable moment, my then-boyfriend and now-husband looked deeply into my eyes. “I have something to tell you,” Marty said, stroking my hair. This is it, I thought. The first “I love you.”
He sighed, drew in a deep breath, and proceeded to whinny. He continued to whinny, throwing back his head, flaring his nostrils.
“Please stop whinnying.”
He continued like a horse in some old western.
“Do I need a whip to make you stop?”
Marty couldn’t understand why I disliked his whinnying so much.
“It’s a pretty good imitation, don’t you think?” he said.
“I was expecting something different. Perhaps something spoken.”
I put on my coat and headed for the door.
“Wait, wait. The whinny was animal language for …..”
“For, for……..uh, love,” he said in a barely audible voice.
Over the years, Marty’s terms of endearment have changed.
“You are my pigsney,” he said one day.
“I beg your pardon.”
“Pigsney. It’s a great Scrabble word. It has an anagram. Espying. And it takes an –s.”
He introduced me once in public as his “little pigsney.”
“I am not your little pigsney,” I stormed off.
He then began calling me his DOWSABEL, which was a step up from PIGSNEY, but not by much. As far as I’m concerned, DOWSABEL is the name of a cow.
The best of the endearments learned from studying Scrabble words was LEMAN.
“Daiva, I just want to tell you that you’re my leman,” Marty said.
“Is that a high-class lemon? Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
“What do you want me to call you, then?”
“How about She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.”
Sometimes Marty calls me Dutzky, which means nothing and is not a valid Scrabble word, not even in Collins. I like Dutzky, pronounced Doot-ski, because it’s a real pet name, one that emerged naturally and solidified over the course of time. I love it most of all when Marty calls me Daivute, which is an endearing diminutive of Daiva in Lithuanian.
I’ve had my own names for Marty, some of which I can’t say in public. Occasionally I’ll call him Zebu, which is a species of South Asian cattle. He is not really cattle-like—I like zebu because it’s one of the first unusual z- words I learned when I took up Scrabble.
We call each other sweetie a lot these days. I like sweetie. It implies a level of comfort that takes some time to establish, I think. You don’t say “Sweetie, can you move your big feet so that I can see the television” in the very beginning of a relationship.
This morning my sweetie and I went over a list of words that begin with LOVE and have extensions. Among them are LOVEFEST, LOVELORN, LOVERLY, LOVESOME, LOVELILY (which can be an adverb or an adjective, and, no, I can’t use LOVELILY in a sentence), LOVEBIRD, LOVESICK, and, if you’re playing Collins, LOVERED and LOVEBITE.
My favorite love word, however, is LOVEVINE. I won’t tell you the meaning. I guess you’ll just have to use your vivid imaginations.