Because I'm a tragic person who clicks on any old internet link I see about Meghan Markle, I was immediately intrigued last week when I read the excitedly capitalised headline "Meghan Markle Accidentally Called Prince Harry His Secret Pet Name in Public and Got So Flustered."

Oooh, what could it be, I wondered.

Given she's American I figured it could be something terrible like sugar-pie. Or corny like baby-cakes. Perhaps even a saucy nickname like Big Red? Snigger.

But it wasn't any of those. It was very sweet and very simple; Meghan called Harry "my love" when they went to see Hamilton and she didn't seem remotely flustered, as it happens.


Why would she? "My love" is a charming, literal term of endearment. It's what I call my boyfriend because I find so many other pet names cloying. He, in turn, calls me darling, which I love. I remember the first time I got a message from him calling me "darling" and I felt a little flutter.

I'm so sorry to be syrupy and I hope I don't put you off your kipper, but progressing from real names to affectionate ones felt like a big relationship milestone. Although I can't call anyone "darling" myself.

When I was younger, I longed to be the sort of woman who could pull it off in the manner of Tallulah Bankhead, all husky and seductive. But if I call anyone "darling" it feels silly, as if I'm playing at being a grown-up.

So, "my love" it is for Meghan and me, while Prince William calls Kate "babykins", which I would find hard to believe were it not for the fact that this was revealed by the phone-hacking scandal and William was heard saying it in a voicemail.

Prince William is said to call Kate
Prince William is said to call Kate "babykins". Photo / Getty Images

But I've known a few Old Etonians and I reckon he says it in a silly high-pitched voice to denote he's being ironic.

Couples develop affectionate pet names for one another as a bonding technique, their own secret, special language. Each to their own in private, of course, but I couldn't spend the rest of my life with a man who seriously called me things like "babykins" or "snookums".

He doesn't sound like someone who'd take the bin bags out or get rid of spiders, does he? Adjectives like "gorgeous" and "sexy" make me cringe too, uttered by the sort of bounder who has a Stringfellows loyalty card.

Why not return to old English pet names? Although I think "honey-pie" saccharine, the 16th-century word "honeysop" (literally, a bit of bread dipped in honey) is weirdly charming. I like sweeting and there's "flitter-mouse" if you're feeling brave. Lambkin nearly makes me wince, it's perilously close to lamb-chop. But Shakespeare used lambkin in his Henrys so I think we have to allow it. I'm less sure about "piggesnye", which was one of Chaucer's and means "darling little pig's eye".


Although I reckon we should all be grateful we're not Dutch because they refer to one another as "scheetje", which translates, I discover, as "little fart". Unless you are Dutch, in which case can I suggest that you give "my love" a whirl?