I've always loved to learn new languages because they show so much about the people who speak it and their culture. Somebody once told me there are several words for "sand" in the languages of people who live in the desert. Equally, the choice of words for "ice" seems to be huge among the languages spoken in the Arctic, and in Asia, there's a bigger variety for "rice" than anywhere else. In Germany, we have an extensive variation for . . . (can you guess?) . . . rain. Nieselregen (very fine rain), Wolkenbruch (literally translates as broken cloud and signifies a downpour), Landregen (ordinary rain, rather persistent), Dauerregen (rain that never stops), the expression "es giesst in Stroemen" (it rains in sheets), Schauer (if you translate it as shower, you get the meaning - short and strong), Sommerregen (summer rain), Schneeregen (sleet) . . . in general, the English language has more words than German, particularly when it comes to verbs, but in rain, we can hold our own!
Now why do I talk about rain? I didn't want to talk about weather at all, but about sweet names in my blog today. Because I realized that the funniest words you can learn in another language are pet names . . . names of endearment . . . I mean the names you give to your lovers and and your children, something very important for romance writers!
In American English, everybody knows due to Hollywood movies, you can safely start with "honey" or "sugar". I once started to call my daughter "sugar" in German, which is the word "Zucker". Not only does it sound too harsh, but everybody stared at me and thought I was trying to be too smart. So I stopped doing that and now call her rabbit, which is perfectly acceptable in German, not only for kids but also very popular for couples. A normal phrase in a German household could be "Rabbit, have you seen my glasses?" However, the standard German endearment of a man to a woman is "mouse", made stronger by "Mäuschen", little mouse. Try that on an American woman!
In return, the standard German pet name of a woman for a man is "bear". I assure you it doesn't sound strange - you can even buy postcards, pre-designed, from "mouse" to "bear". I don't know what an American woman would do if you addressed her as "mouse", but if a man really wants to insult a German woman, he should start calling her "baby" - she'll think he's the most chauvinistic male on earth. I admit I still balk whenever I read it in an American romance.
The French have their own funny pet names. A mother often calls her child "mon chou", which can be translated into two things . . . a "chou" is either a cream bag or a cabbage. Picture a mother tenderly pulling her daughter's pigtails and saying "yes, my cabbage".
But if you look at certain German variations, you come up with even stranger things. "Min soeten schietbüddel", for example, is Plattdeutsch, an old German language spoken in the North of Germany. I'm not sure if I wrote it correctly, but that's what it sounds like. It's used from a parent to a child and means "my sweet shit-bag". Now, can you top that?