by Don  

When you get to Russia, you have to find yourself a Russian girlfriend or boyfriend. After a week or two, no doubt you start canoodling. Well, you can't kiss and cuddle and call your beloved by their first name. You have to call them the equivalent of sweetie or honey or darling or Nutella-lips. (Okay, I made that last one up.) In any case, one of the words you can use in that context is зайка ‘bunny’, which is the diminutive form of за́яц ‘rabbit.’ It declines like this:


Actually, I was completely ignorant of this word until last December. A Russian friend of mine had sent me a picture of her boyfriend. I responded:

Красавец он у тебя! You've got a good looking guy there!

And she responded:

Он зайка! He's a sweetie!

Of course, guys can use this, too, when talking to their girlfriends:

Зайка моя! Как я скучал по тебе! Oh, baby, I missed you so much!

In English affection terms are often associated with sweet-tasting foods: sweetie, honey, sugar, sugar plum, sweet cakes, sweet cheeks, honey bunch... Okay, some of those are old-fashioned, but you get the idea. Russians often use diminutive animal words to mean these things: рыбка ‘little fish,’ котик/киска ‘kitten.’ They have to be cute little animals; you'd never say «слоник ты мой» “your are my little elephant” or «верблюжонок ты мой» “my little camel.” And you definitely never want to call your girlfriend a сучка, which means... um... er... a little female dog, if you catch my meaning.

Рыбка, дом выглядит прекрасно! Sweetie, the house looks great!
Киска, ты прекрасно выглядишь! Baby, you look amazing!
Котик, ты такой красивый! Все мои подруги завидуют мне. Honey, you are so handsome! All my friends are jealous.

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