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I've been reading a chapter about the vocabulary of the Yorkshire dialect in the UK. Among other interesting curiosities ("child" plural "childer", "lad and lass" for "son an daughter") I've come across the frequent use of "love" as a form of address.

"It's time to go, love."

My question is: Do they use it when talking to strangers? For instance, if I enter a shop or take a cab, is the shop-assistant or the cab-driver likely to address me as "love"?

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    I've heard "Love" used that way by people with British accents. Here in the US, similar words are used (also to strangers) depending on region. You'll hear, "Honey", "Sweetie", "Dear", "Darlin'" (that's a southern US term mostly). Oct 3, 2014 at 16:41
  • I'm sure it's actually spelt luv. Oct 4, 2014 at 14:31

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Yes, "Love" is used in regions of Britain as an address to strangers. It's pretty regionally restricted, and rather out-of-date; it was more common twenty, forty or sixty years ago. But there is a good chance that if you go to the right place for long enough some stranger (probably an older one) will address you as 'love'.

In my experience the term is more likely to be used by women (to either men or women), although men to women is also likely. It is more likely to be used by someone older, especially to someone younger (though I've heard young women use it to seniors too). It's unlikely to be used by men to men.

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  • I'm a man. Would a man address me that way?
    – Centaurus
    Oct 3, 2014 at 23:08
  • I'll edit the answer. Oct 4, 2014 at 13:45
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Oxford's COD, love, no. 4b: British, colloquial: a familiar form of address regardless of affection. - That's pretty mediocre or it does not help much. Longman's DCE gives a lot more information about the usage. love, no. 8b: (my) love, BrE spoken, informal = darling: a friendly way of talking to someone you don't know, especially to a woman or a child. Many women consider this to be impolite or offensive. Example: What's your name, love?

As a not-mother-tongue speaker I would never use such an address when talking to a woman I don't know. I feel it as condescending and trying to establish an intimacy that is not existing. And it is the manner of speaking of men of a certain social class, but I am sure it is not the educated class.

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It's very unlikely a British man would address another man, be he a fellow Briton or a tourist with such an affectionate term. The term used between men would be mate.

London taxi drivers (not private minicabs) used to be known for their cheerfulness and friendly banter, no longer true I'm afraid but if you do strike up a conversation you might be awarded with a love or darling if you're a woman, and mate if you're a man. The clichè term guv'nor which used to be a sign of respect, is virtually extinct in London.

Female strangers, if they seem friendly and /or need assistance will be addressed as love regardless of their age, and level of attractiveness. If a girl trips and falls while walking along the street, a Briton might well inquire "Are you alright, love?" It's a friendly but rather dated term as @DJClayworth pointed out. Conversely, if the same incident occurred inside a department store a polite shop assistant (thin on the ground these days) would probably ask:

Are you all right, madam/miss?

(An anonymous user added this to MariLouA's original post some months later: It should have been a comment. I hope MariLouA will accept it in the spirit intended. editor)

In Sheffield in Yorkshire in the 80s I was surprised as a man to be called love by other men. In my native Liverpool , and now in Manchester in Lancashire , this would have been very peculiar. It shows the variation between places which are quite close together. Sheffield and Manchester are only about 40 miles apart.

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