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I am German and my girlfriend is an native speaker of English from Malaysia.

I saw that she referred to a very good friend of hers as "My love" in a text chat. I am confused by this statement because if I try to translate it back it would be ever only used for someone you have serious romantic attachment towards.

So is "my love" used for someone close in a platonic sense as well, does it sometimes depend on personal preference, or is my assessment correct?

After he wished her a good birthday, she replied to him something along the lines of

"my love, I wish you were here"

Im not looking for comments on the relationship, just seriously interested in the linguistic background and usage of the term.

  • It would be helpful if you reproduced the text, or at least the structure of it. if you were part of the conversation is possible that 'my love' is intended to be a parenthetical address to you rather than a designation of the other person mentioned, but without the structure of the sentence, we can't tell. That's the kind of nuance that can get lost when people are lax with punctuation, as is often the case in text messages. The other possibility is that it is a regional colloquialism. – Spagirl Nov 20 '17 at 11:14
  • No, she directly addressed him as "my love, I wish you were here" or something. After he was wishing her a good birthday. – amaik Nov 20 '17 at 11:20
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    Is your girlfriend British (English specifically) by chance? Brits, specifically British women, use that phrase a lot, whether or not the person is a true “beloved” or not. But usually a dear friend or family member (or yes, romantic partners). I think the Australia’s use it to, but usually without the “my”, and it’s more informal to them. We Americans don’t use it (except the ones feigning or affecting British culture and idioms). – Dan Bron Nov 20 '17 at 11:39
  • She is from South-East Asia, her parents have UK-influences and that is why they raised her speaking English. She was living in Australia for a couple of years as well. – amaik Nov 20 '17 at 12:12
  • @amaik Wait, is she Indian? Indian English uses “my dear” in ways I, as an American, find creepily over-familiar. They use it as a generic reference to their interlocutor, whether you know them well or just met them. Kind of how Muslims refer to everyone as “my brother” or “my sister”, except in hat case I see the motivation: in their worldview everyone is family under god. But the way Indian English speakers use “my dear” to total strangers I find creepy (another big difference is in AmE, such terms of endearment are not used between two men, but it is in IndE). – Dan Bron Nov 20 '17 at 12:16
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It is almost certainly a fairly ordinary West Country term of endearment in the UK, although I cannot give a definitive citation. See:

Love, My Love, Luvver

I added an explanation of these terms being used towards strangers, to prevent any grockles getting confused over their summer hols :) I'm not really sure on the origin of the differences between them though, so if anyone could shed any light on that would be useful. I'm originally from West Dorset and everyone there says "my love" and sometimes just "love", I also lived in Exeter for a few years where "luvver" or "my luvver" seems to be the norm. Is "luvver" just a different pronunciation of "lover" that has been picked up by common parlance? What about sometimes having "my" between them?

Wikipedia: Talk:West Country English

There are variations on this all over the country. In the East Midlands (where I was raised), it was quite common for adults who had never been introduced to casually call each other "Me duck". This practise still continues among people of a certain age, but it is slowly dying out.

East Midlands dialects in literature

The romantic novelist and East Midlander D. H. Lawrence was from the Nottinghamshire town of Eastwood and wrote in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Coalfield dialects in several poems as well as in his more famous works such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Sons and Lovers.

Though spoken less commonly today, the dialect of the East Midlands has been investigated in texts such as the Ey Up Mi Duck[4] series of books (and an LP) by Richard Scollins and John Titford. These books were originally intended as a study of Derbyshire Dialect, particularly the distinctive speech of Ilkeston and the Erewash valley, but later editions acknowledge similarities in vocabulary and grammar which unite the East Midlands dialects and broadened their appeal to the region as a whole.

"Ey up" (often spelt ayup / eyup) is a greeting thought to be of Old Norse origin (se upp) used widely throughout the North Midlands, North Staffordshire and Yorkshire, and "m' Duck" is thought to be derived from a respectful Anglo Saxon form of address, "Duka" (literally "Duke"), and is unrelated to waterfowl. Non-natives of the East Midlands and North Staffordshire are often surprised to hear men greet each other as 'M' Duck.'

Wikipedia: East Midlands English

  • Saying something as filler speech in spoken conversation, may, or may not be the same as using it in written conversation. Do any of your sources have anything to say about the prevalence of the term in written correspondence? – Spagirl Nov 20 '17 at 12:48
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    I don't think this is specific to the west country or midlands. I've heard people from all over the country use "my love" as a general term of affection towards friends or even strangers. I think it's an example of the sort of affectionate term originally used by parents towards their children, which gets broadened out to the general population. – Max Williams Nov 20 '17 at 13:06
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    @MaxWilliams Isn't it more generally used as a tag after a comment or statement, my love? If you put it in front, it starts to take on a different connotation. My love, I'm sure you'd agree. – Spagirl Nov 20 '17 at 13:39
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    @spagirl yes, definitely a closing tag, eg "How are you, my love?". – Max Williams Nov 20 '17 at 15:41
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    @Lawrence No doubt, but I was specifically talking about constructions using the first person possessive 'my'. Is 'My mate' used much as an opener? – Spagirl Nov 28 '17 at 14:09
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There are so many definitions and uses of the word love in English, with all types of connotations and subtexts, and often unknowable communicative intent and psychology of the speaker, that trying to ask what a specific meaning is or whether a specific utterance is "appropriate" is nearly impossible to answer. Even innocuous, customary uses can spring to new life. Sometimes people want to express affection in as innocent a manner as possible even when they have no (conscious) intention of taking it any further. You can't separate linguistic background from speaker's intention.

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