Know what a guy in country music calls a girl he's attracted to these days? "Girl." That's it -- "girl."
Like, "Yeah, girl, been diggin' on you" or "Girl, I finally got you up in the seat of my old truck" or, most notoriously, "Girl, you make my speakers go boom-boom."
If the lad is feeling especially lyrical, he may toss in a "baby" or a "honey" before moving on to wax eloquent about his beloved's waxed areas. But you can be sure he'll never deplete the thesaurus of sugary synonyms.
Even so, we shouldn't be too hard on these bucolic bards. It's not easy to put into words just what it is that sets your "girl" apart from all the others. Nonetheless, here are some swains who tried:
"Hey, Good Lookin'" (Hank Williams, 1951; written by Hank Williams)
No fool he, Williams resorts to the one seduction tool every male employs when he's on the hunt -- flattery. Then he rolls out the gifts he's willing to drop at his intended's feet to show his sincerity. "I've got a hot rod Ford and a two-dollar bill/And I know a spot right over the hill/There's soda pop and the dancin's free/So if you wanna have fun come along with me." Sure, it's crass, but it's so much warmer than "Hey, girl."
"Honeycomb" (Jimmie Rodgers, 1957; written by Bob Merrill)
This may be the only instance of sweet talk being spun into a whole creation myth. In this narrative, the Lord makes bees, birds and trees just to fashion the honeycomb that becomes "my baby's lips" and pet name. "Well, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby/Well, Honeycomb, be my own/What a darn good life when you've got a wife like honeycomb." No wonder the song was a pop hit, as well.
"Devil Woman" (Marty Robbins, 1962; written by Marty Robbins)
Robbins is pretty extravagant in his imagery here, too, going so far as to link his amorous torments to changes in nature. "Even the seagulls are happy," he says, to see him return to his forgiving wife after he's wrenched himself out of the ensnaring clutches of "devil woman." Isn't he a wuss, though, to blame all the treachery on her?
"Hello, Darlin'" (Conway Twitty, 1970; written by Conway Twitty)
Twitty squeezes more eroticism into this one greeting than you'll find in a dozen bro-country anthems. In some quarters, "darling" is considered a tad more elegant than "baby" or "girl," even with the terminal "g" gone. Wisely, Twitty shoulders all the responsibility for having driven away the woman he's singing to. Then he turns on the pity, "Guess I'm doin' all right/Except I can't sleep/And I cry all night till dawn." Clearly, there are some problems a six-pack and a swimming hole just can't solve.
"Borrowed Angel" (Mel Street, 1972; written by Mel Street)
Street's getting it on with someone else's wife. But you've got to understand. He still needs and respects her. To him, she's a ministering spirit. "That ring on her finger don't belong to me/But she loves me and I know she'll save some borrowed time for me."
"Queen of the Silver Dollar" (Dave & Sugar, 1976; written by Shel Silverstein)
There's irony here, but no scorn, as Dave & Sugar describe the social habits of a down-at-the-heels bar girl who's treated like a queen -- at least for the moment. "Now the jesters flock around her, tryin' to win her favors/To see which one will take the Queen of the Silver Dollar home."
"You're My Jamaica" (Charley Pride, 1979; written by Kent Robbins)
Let others seek joy in tropical islands, Pride sings. He's found his "Paradise" at home. "You're my Jamaica/You're where I want to be/You're my island when I'm being/Tossed on a stormy sea."
"Lady" (Kenny Rogers, 1980; written by Lionel Richie)
Well, you've got to sing something to keep the lounge open. Rogers' breathy, impassioned interpretation glosses over such clichéd clunkers as "knight in shining armor," "each and every morning," "whisper softly in my ear," "made me whole" and "love of my life." But you get the idea. This woman is really revered and adored, not a bikini-clad party ornament.
"Baby Blue" (George Strait, 1988; written by Aaron Barker)
Baby Blue is a wild child who loves intensely and then leaves on a whim. "Like a breath of spring, she came and left/And I still don't know why/So here's to you and whoever holds my Baby Blue tonight."
"Little Miss Honky Tonk" (Brooks & Dunn, 1995; written by Ronnie Dunn)
Don't bother lighting a bonfire and hauling out the cooler for this chick. She ain't the outdoor type. Rather, she's into bright lights and jukeboxes or, as B&D sing it, "She's a slick nickel, she's right on the money/I wouldn't give her up for a thousand buckle bunnies." No ordinary "girl" need apply.
"Texas Tornado" (Tracy Lawrence, 1995; written by Bobby Braddock)
Bloodlines have yet to be confirmed, but it looks like Lawrence's Texas Tornado is a first cousin to Little Miss Honky Tonk. She's not just the life of the party -- she is the party. "I'm like a tumbleweed in a wild west Texas wind," he moans. "You're blowing me away again."
"Hot Mama" (Trace Adkins, 2004; written by Casey Beathard, Tom Shapiro )
The kids are asleep, and Daddy's feeling frisky. We're in a post-honky-tonk stage of life here. But those neon lights still flicker in the back of Daddy's mind as he whinnies, "And you're one hot mama/You turn me on, let's turn it up/And turn this room into a sauna."
OK. Just one more. Consider, if you will, Don Gibson's 1972 entreaty, "Woman (Sensuous Woman)," penned by Gary S. Paxton. It shares thematic roots with Robbins' "Devil Woman" in that it places all responsibility for a guy's straying onto the woman he's catting around with. "Woman, sensuous woman/You control the world I'm living in/Woman, sensuous woman/Release my body and let me live again."
Oh, please! Don't be such a girl.