The Non-Expert

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Man-barrass Your Way to Love

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week, we show you how a well-chosen nickname can bend your mate’s will.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


Question: My husband calls me “sweet pea,” which I find infuriating, but I haven’t told him so. Instead, what is a good/awful nickname I can use to replicate the exact same reaction in him? —Sonya

Answer: Uh, what about sweet pea?

Sorry if that sounds condescending, but the obviousness of this one just screams to me: sweeeeeeeeeet peeeeeeeeeeea! If my spouse called me “sweet pea” in a serious manner—even within the confines of our own home—I fear my very own anatomical “peas” would ascend faster than the Space Shuttle Atlantis out of sheer man-barrassment1. And I bet your husband feels the same way. See, you’ve already got a WME (weapon of mass emasculation) at your disposal, and you didn’t even have to come up with it yourself. Score!

You are simply giving him a dose of his own medicine, except that, unlike you, he is severely allergic to this medicine and will go into the emotional equivalent of anaphylactic shock. Speaking of anaphylaxis, think of the pea as a more mystical version of its legume brethren, the peanut. In fact, if we were playing a legume-based version of Dungeons & Dragons, the peanut would probably be a paladin, the pea a mage. Pea the Mage’s powers are less overt than Peanut the Paladin’s, but potentially more damaging—psychologically, at least.

Employed strategically in a public setting, one properly lobbed “sweet pea” could be just the magical spell to put him into submission for good, if that sounds at all appealing to your wizard-y sensibilities. For example, you could get him on the JumboTron at a ball game while giving him a big smooch on the cheek (“Happy Anniversary, Sweet Pea [insert full birth name and maybe email address]! Love, Your Lil’ Sweet Pea”). Men are often oblivious to their own negative behaviors until they experience the repercussions of those very behaviors. In front of 21,534 other people.

Or, if you’d rather not call him out in public, you could simply start inserting sweet peas into your everyday conversations. Wait for him to cast the first pea, as it were, and then start laying it on thick (like a well-made split-pea soup):

HIM: Hey, sweet pea. How was your day?

YOU: Oh, it was good. Thanks for asking… sweet pea!

HIM: Uh. Wait, what? Did you just call me—

YOU: I said it was good, sweet pea! Really, really good, sweet pea! I had sweet peas for lunch, sweet pea! How sweet was yours, sweet pea?! Want some leftover peas, sweetie? Sweet pea! Sweet pea! Sweet pea!

HIM: Why do you keep saying that?! Stop!

YOU [to the tune of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”]: Whoooooaaaa, whoa whoa sweet pea o’ my-ine! Whoa, oh, oh, oh sweet pea o’ mine!

HIM: What is wrong with y—

YOU: [A cappella version of the guitar solo from “Sweet Child O’ Mine”]

See how you dominated the conversation there? He couldn’t get a word in edgewise! Now he understands what it feels like to be pea’d on.


While I believe a counter-blitzkrieg of lil’ sweet peas would be most immediately effective, I would be remiss if I did not alert you to the countless combinations of emasculating names you could call him. In fact, Hallmark and I have developed a loose formula2 to help you calculate such names:

Diminutive adjective + Unspeakably cute adjective or continuing diminutive adjective + Cute animal, dessert/pastry, fruit/vegetable, or soft thing + Monosyllabic word such as “Face,” “Pants,” “Cakes,” etc.
Acceptable terms include “baby,” “tiny,” “mini,” “itsy” (often used in combination with “bitsy”), “wee,” and “lil’,” to name a few   A potentially heart-melting descriptor like “fuzzy” or “snuggy”—unless you are continuing your diminutive adjective from the first category, in which case it is preferable to rhyme (see: itsy bitsy, baby waby, etc.)   Animals, desserts, and edible or soft things work well, but don’t limit yourself—it can be anything that will make him feel uncomfortable, and you know him better than anyone   A single-syllable word that rounds out the cuteness of your new moniker. When in doubt, resort to the industry-standard “cakes,” which works with just about any combination imaginable.


Let’s try a few together:

  • Lil’ + Floppy + Fritter + Pants = Lil’ Floppy Fritter Pants!
  • Teeny + Weeny (continuing diminutive adjective) + Pillow + Pucks = Teeny Weeny Pillow Pucks!
  • Bumpy + Baby + Mango + Muffins = Bumpy Baby Mango Muffins!


As you can see by our final example, it’s not crucial to stick to the script (note the reversal of categories one and two, as well as the use of the polysyllabic “muffins” in category four). This is just to get you started. Feel free to re-order the categories any way you see fit, as long as the product still induces a cringe. Think of it as a poetic composition: rhyme, meter, and alliteration are all important, but so are originality and freedom of expression.


Below I’ve listed some additional terms of endearment that would facilitate the necessary level of man-barrassment to get him to shape up. I fully expect you to venture out on your own in the creative process, but I wanted to provide some additional examples (with notes) for inspiration’s sake:

  •  “Lil’ Sweaty Bunny Legs” (feel free to use “lil’” in front of any and all titles, even ones that already start with “lil’”)
  • “Floppy Poppy Joseph Dates” (not quite sure why on this one, but I know I wouldn’t like it)
  • “Lil’ Baby Candy Man” (kinda creepy, especially if you say it in a really high voice)
  • “Eensy Weensy Ice Cream Slippers” (again, just a hunch here)
  • “Mini Muffin Cream Cheeks” (note how this subliminally recalls cream cheese to complement the use of muffins)
  • “Lil’ Lumpy Baby Boy” (the Oedipal quality will confuse him/freak him out)
  • “My Biological Son” (like above, but a bit more direct)
  • “Fuzzy Frozen Pound Puppy” (see how the alliteration makes this one work despite the fact that it’s talking about a frozen puppy?)
  • “Puppy Bunny Kitten Face” (cute overload!)
  • “Teddy Ruxpin Cupcakes” (this one sounds cute but also conjures terror as a bonus)
  • “Papa Purple Peanut Butter” (“papa” could make him feel macho, so make sure to pair it with something ridiculous)
  • “Papa Murphy’s Take-n-Bake” (like this)
  • “Papa Papadopoulos” (and this)
  • “Lil’ Fat Hippo Baby” (not if he’s fat, though!)
  • “Baby Fuzzy Floppy Shants” (guys are very afraid of shants, Capri pants, etc.)
  • “Lil’ Baby Name Plate” (again, doesn’t have to necessarily mean anything to work)
  • “Nutty Mini Nanner Muffins” (I consider this my Mona Lisa)
  • “Itty Bitty Tater Totters” (so many Ts!)
  • “Mr. Potatohead III” (why the hell not?)


Anyway, you get the idea. Generally, if you just stick to desserts, fruits and vegetables, soft items like blankets, or any combination thereof, used in conjunction with the words “pants,” “face,” “lil’,” “fuzzy,” and “floppy,” you really can’t go wrong.


You could also simply ask him to stop calling you sweet pea, and he might just be cool about it. On the other hand, maybe not. I’ve repeatedly asked my wife to quit referring to me as “Little Baby Lion King” in front of all our friends and family, and she outright refuses. It really pisses me off sometimes.



  1. An exclusively male emotional state. Man-barrassment is marked by deep feelings of shame and inadequacy, as witnessed, for example, in the male subject’s inability to make the bell ring on the hammer game at the Renaissance Faire. This would be considered a textbook case of man-barrassment.
  2. The Emasculating Name Generator is of course loosely modeled after the famed Blues Name Generator: Physical ailment + Fruit + Name of dead president. Also, Hallmark not really involved.

TMN Contributing Writer Eric Feezell‘s work has appeared at the Onion News Network and McSweeney’s, among others. He lives in Oakland, Calif. More by Eric Feezell

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