Cubby--girlfriend/boyfriend (for pre-schoolers)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Apr 22 19:50:35 UTC 2004

On Apr 22, 2004, at 5:23 AM, David Bowie wrote:

> ...I haven't heard cubby, but my 3yo and nearly-5yo daughters report a
> distinction between boyfriend/girlfriend and kissyboy/kissygirl.
> Kissing
> doesn't seem to be involved with either of them, and b/gfriend seems
> to be
> more serious, at least in that you actually *talk* to the person and
> tell
> them you like them repeatedly, while b/gfriend appears to involve
> agreeing
> that you like each other and then ignoring each other.
> I remember reading a thing in some anthropological journal 7 or 8
> years ago
> that pled for researchers to start working on the cultural
> anthropology of
> children. It seems to me that someone could do something decent on the
> *linguistic* anthropology side just with children's "romantic"
> friendship
> terms.

the cultural anthropology of children *certainly* needs working on, and
david bowie's observations about his daughters' usages are relevant.
but i'm not sure the original observation (about "cubby") is; isn't
"cubby" an invention by teachers, specifically to replace the
children's terms (which were felt to be inappropriately "adult")?

interestingly, "cubby" isn't sex-marked, though "boyfriend/girlfriend"
are.  so what "cubby" marks, vs. "friend", is other-sex vs. same-sex.
the teachers apparently believe agree with the kids that this is an
important distinction for the kids to make.  so there is some kid (and
adult) culture at work here.

arnold (zwicky at

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