Terms of Endearment in Jane Eyre

One of the more entertaining details of Jane Eyre is the number of pet names that Rochester has for Jane. Some of them are used in a teasing, insulting or derogatory way, and others are more demonstrative of his affection for her. What follows is a list of the names I have found, divided into three categories – Insults, Debatable, and Endearments. I’m going to take this list into the movie with me and give bonus points for their use, especially of my favorites.

Insults – used primarily when Rochester is vexed

  • Witch
  • Sorceress
  • Simpleton
  • Niggard
  • Little skeptic
  • Strange, almost unearthly thing
  • Little tyrant
  • Little bungler
  • Hard little thing
  • Malicious elf
  • Mocking changeling
  • And my personal favorite: Provoking Puppet!!!!!

Debatable – depending on the context, Rochester’s mood, and how Jane might feel about being compared to supernatural beings or mocked for her short stature

  • Changeling (is that by itself a bad thing to be? I wouldn’t mind in certain tales)
  • Elf (ditto)
  • Child
  • Pale little elf
  • Mustard-seed (referring to a Shakespearean fairy, I rather like this one)
  • Mere sprite
  • Fire spirit
  • Fairy
  • Bonny wee thing
  • Salamander – this one is actually rather interesting. At first I thought Rochester was calling Jane an amphibian, in the same way Abbot calls her a toad. However, when I looked up the definition of sylph (fairies of the air), it said “see also: salamander” and thus intrigued, I did (this is how the internet ssssssucks me in). A salamander can refer to a mythical creature with many properties including an affinity with fire or being fire-proof. Its legendary status may have arisen from its propensity to hide in rotting logs – when the log was put on the hearth and burned, the salamander would appear. The salamander became a symbol of enduring faith which triumphs over the fires of passion – which describes Jane perfectly!! I’d still rather be called “Mustard-seed” than “Salamander” personally, but this is an excellent example of Brontean word-magic.

Endearments – used when Rochester is feeling kind or romantic

  • My little friend
  • Ministrant spirit
  • My darling
  • My little wife (before they are married)
  • Young Mrs Rochester (ditto)
  • Fairfax Rochester’s girl-bride (ditto ditto)
  • Sylph
  • Very angel
  • Innocent flower
  • My good little girl
  • Little English girl
  • Beneficent spirit
  • And my personal favorite… My sky-lark

And how does Jane respond? Jane is fonder of describing her love’s piercing eyes and craggy brow than showering him with affectionate pet names. She does call him a Vulcan (the Roman blacksmith god of fire, NOT Spock) and a brownie (domestic hob-goblin). My only quarrel with this is, what could a true Janian reply be, if one’s significant other playfully calls one a provoking puppet? I have come up with:

  • Salacious sorcerer
  • Veritable villain
  • Asking whether the “old impetuosity is rising”

A short list but nonetheless effective.

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