Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Terms of Endearment

When I used to write poetry, I mostly preferred free verse, a style which refrains from rhyme or meter patterns. Yet in my daily life, I love rhyme and lyrical language. I indulge myself, as many of us do, by incorporating rhyming and singsong endings into terms of endearment. Sometimes those terms are directed at E. or my children, but my toy poodle, Cosmo, is the beneficiary of my most flowery endearments.

Cosmo answers to many names—Cosmo-mosmo, Cosmonello, and Cosi-wosi, to name a few. Another of my oft-used monikers is Cosmonator, as in "See you later, Cosmonator." There's something so pleasing about hearing these made-up words roll off my tongue. Cosmo also knows I'm speaking to him when he hears the phrases honey-bunny, sweetie-weetie, or even sweetie-badeedie.

I apparently owe this tendency toward nonsense words to my father, who loved characters with rhyming names. When my sisters and I were little, he told us stories of Mr. Plubenduben, a fox, and he loved to recite children's rhymes in his native German. Later, when I was an easily-embarrassed teenager, I worried that my friends would overhear my father verbalizing nonsense words to himself, apparently unaware that he was talking out loud.

I've been spared the embarrassment of talking to myself because I'm able to direct my verbalizations at Cosmo, who bears them with great stoicism. In fact, animals of all kinds show tremendous tolerance for bad rhymes. The ducks who live outside our apartment building come waddling over at a brisk pace when I call to them, "Hey there, duckie-wuckies." And I swear that years ago I made friends with the crow who frequented our front yard by always greeting the bird with a friendly, "Hello, crow." In return, he would turn a beady eye in my direction and hop slightly closer to me.

I suspect that poetry might be more popular today if poets incorporated meter and rhyme into their work. Nowadays, we get those pleasures from song lyrics, the most catchy of which seem to become part of our hard-wiring. Many years ago, when our Siamese fighting fish died, my children wanted to give it a proper burial. I wrapped the fish in a white shroud (a Kleenex tissue, that is) and we dug a shallow grave in the flower bed. As we laid our fish to rest, the children requested a song. Unbidden, an old Al Jolson song popped into my head. "Toot, toot, tootsie good-bye," I sang, "Toot, toot, tootsie don't cry." That song possessed all that a fish funeral required—a sweet endearment and a catchy rhyme.

For now, fortunately, Cosmo is very much alive and I can't resist making up new terms of endearment for him. After all, he's such a cosmically cute Cosmolian.


  1. Barbara, we do the same with our papillon Niccolo aka Niki.....we call him the Nikster, Niccolo the Piccolo, Nik Nik, Niki Schniki, and sometimes the pest.

  2. Barbara -- I will have to share a photo with you of our adopted dog, Todd. He is terrier mix (former stray) and we love them. Todd is also known as: The Todd Man, Todomeister, Mr. T, Todd the dog, Toddster, Hot Toddy, Hasamasa baby boo boo (not sure how that got in there but it did), Teedletodd, Tiny Todd, Toddarific, Todd Squad, Toddorama. Hmm.. and we wonder why he has trouble knowing his name.