What do you call your S.O.? Chances are, your pet name for loved one probably starts with the letter “B.” Think about it. There’s “baby,” “babe,” and “boo.”
It turns out there’s an actual, legit reason why so many terms of endearment begin with the letter “B.” According to Frank Nuessel, Ph.D., an expert in the science of onomastics (which is the study of naming), the “B” sound at the beginning of words is one of the first things we learn to say when we’re babies. He told Good Housekeeping, “There’s a natural order of the acquisition of the sounds of language. First comes the vowel ahh. It requires no tongue movement. Then, in terms of consonants, you get what we call ‘bilabial’ sounds. You only put your lips together.”
And guess what, guys? The first three consonant sounds that babies learn to make are b, p and m. Which goes a long way in explaining why most babies’ first words are mama, papa and baba (baby cuteness for “bottle”).
But what exactly does this have to do with your boo? Apparently, we’re picking up language from babies and associating it with sweetness and good feels. Baby talk, guys! It’s a thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Nuessel says, “When parents, and usually it’s the mother who interacts the most, tries to teach the baby language, they use the terms of the child: mama, papa, baba. Then the adults transfer the language to other adults or significant others in their life, and they use those as terms of endearment.”
But hey, we don’t all have babies. We’re still calling each other bae. Why? Brace yourselves. According to Nuessel, it’s because OUR PARENTS ARE DOING IT. He says, “Very often, they’re in a family unit of some sort. When they have a boyfriend or girlfriend in adolescence, they hear [the terminology] from the adults and imitate it, because it’s a sign of affection and closeness.”
Whatever the reason, we’re thinking it’s not likely to stop anytime soon. It’s deeply entrenched in our vernacular now. And that’s okay. It’s kinda cute.