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    I have a question for other English speakers on the meaning and use of the word cuddle. I would expect this word to be used when speaking about a baby or toddler or young child, puppy, kitten, spouse or partner. As an adult, I don't think I would cuddle with my parents except maybe if they were extremely sick (near death). I believe I would more likely describe it as embracing my parent or hugging rather than cuddling them. I might coddle them but that is a different word.

    I would never say I had cuddled a colleague, but I might give them a hug or even an embrace. I would probably only embrace them if I knew them well and something had happened to them or their family (wedding, death, major accident, or some other life altering event.

    Are these words, cuddle, embrace and hug used differently than my feel in other English speaking countries?

    Do my feeling for these words coincide with other AE speakers or is this just my own ideas and feelings for when these words are used?

    Is cuddle used more in the sense of just a hug in Australia? How is it used in New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, Ireland, Canada and other English speaking countries?
    Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 02:58
    Yep, I agree. It sounds out of place between two adults -- either like pinching someone's cheek and talking baby talk, or like some kind of dated British slang for making out on the sofa, nudge nudge wink wink.

    You could cuddle a baby or a small animal, and a stuffed toy or a warm fuzzy blanket might be called cuddly. Some people who like that kind of sweet or cute feeling might cuddle their romantic partners like a baby, though the idea might turn other people off. But other than those very limited contexts, it's not really a word we use very much, and certainly not with adult parents or friends.

    Maybe Germans go for it because it looks similar to 'knuddeln,' and your hunch may be right that it's used in BE or somewhere. But to me, 'hug' is much better to express simple friendly affection.

    In fact, it has sort of puzzled me that German doesn't really seem to use 'umarmen' that much. Does it not fit for this, or does it just maybe sound more serious, more like what you would do if the other person was terribly sad?

    To me 'embrace' means 'hug,' but it's a good deal more formal, so it tends to be used more in the nonliteral sense, e.g.: embrace a new idea. Or for greetings that don't necessarily show personal affection, such as in some countries where it's just the custom for, say, men to embrace instead of shaking hands.

    I would also be interested to hear what others associate with these words.

    #1Author hm -- us (236141) 10 Sep 09, 03:52
    Here is a link that might support there is a difference in use between BE and AE.

    Note the father asks his son for a cuddle in front of the press corp.
    #2Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 03:59
    In Canada, cuddle would be used in the same way as expressed by snickerdoodle and hm--us
    #3Author RES-can (330291) 10 Sep 09, 04:37

    Thanks for the response. What about your use of hug and embrace?
    #4Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 04:40
    I disagree - I would use "cuddle" (or "cuddle up") when speaking of two adults, in the sense of a close, warm embrace, when sitting or lying side by side, but not involving an overt sexual act.

    You might hug a friend, but you would cuddle with your lover.

    "Embrace" (in the sense of a hug) strikes me as a rather formal, literary word; not one that I would normally use.
    #5Author Martin--cal (272273) 10 Sep 09, 07:58
    For me (BE), "embrace" is also the formal/poetic word for it. I wouldn't usually talk about embracing someone. If you give someone a "hug" you put one or two arms round someone's back, to comfort them. "Cuddle" is more intimate; when I cuddle my children or husband/give them a cuddle I press them up against me snugly: maybe one person has their face up against the other's chest. (If I wanted to express that level of snugness with "hug" I'd have to add something like "up close".) Even in a formal setting I would talk about cuddling my children, unless I really had just hugged them.
    #6Author CM2DD (236324) 10 Sep 09, 08:42
    I agree, "hug" is less intimate than "cuddle". I greet some good friends with a hug, that is, we both open our arms, embrace, pressing lightly, and let go. I also hug my mother (or rather, she hugs me) and siblings. But I'l cuddle my husband as well as my young nephews (if they let me *g*), that is, we'll hold each other closer and possibly for a longer time.

    Oh, and I might also give someone a hug either to comfort or console them (illness, bereavement) or to congratulate them (pregnancy, engagement/marriage, passed exam) if we are close enough friends.

    To me, too, "embrace" is more formal and not the first word that comes to mind when talking about friends and family.

    @hm--us: In German, I'd say "Ich umarme gute Freunde zur Begrüßung oder um ihnen zu etwas zu gratulieren. Ich nehme sie in den Arm, um sie zu trösten. Mit meinem Mann kuschele ich.

    "knuddeln" is not a word I use that much, and when I do, it's less about the actual act of embracing and more about persons or even objects:
    Der Schauspieler in dem Film war ja zum Knuddeln!
    Manchmal könnte ich meinen Opa einfach nur knuddeln!
    Ich habe meinem Patenkind ein knuddliges Stofftier gekauft.
    Tina muss man einfach gern haben, die ist so knuddlig-süß.
    I don't say "Ich habe meinen Mann geknuddelt", however.
    #7Author Dragon (238202) 10 Sep 09, 09:04
    @hm--us Knuddeln/umarmen

    Ich finde, umarmen ist im Deutschen neutral: es kann sowohl formal sein (wie bei der Begrüßung zwischen Männern, die erwähnt wurde) oder auch ganz informell mit den Kindern/Partner/Freunden. Knuddeln dagegen ist eher informell und setzt voraus, dass man sich gut kennt. Man knuddelt eine gute Freundin oder die Kinder. Wenn man seinen Partner knuddelt, hat das aber für mich keinen romantischen/sexuellen Unterton. Knuddeln ist eher süß und nett. Für einen romantischen Kontext würde ich eher umarmen/in die Arme nehmen verwenden/kuscheln sagen. Für den Fall, dass man jemandem Trost spenden will geht sowohl knuddeln (bei guten Freunden) als auch umarmen/ in die Arme nehmen. Wie CM2DD finde ich auch, dass knuddeln enger und intimer ist als umarmen.
    #8AuthorBinchen10 Sep 09, 09:15
    Unterstütze #8 mit dem Zusatz, dass auch zwischen gutem Freund - guter Freundin geknuddelt werden kann (nicht nur zwischen Freundin - Freundin oder Partner/innen)
    #9Authorknuddelig10 Sep 09, 09:26
    In the early 80s a Canadian student would sometimes visit me and she would say, "Let's have a cuddle!"
    #10AuthorBeethoven10 Sep 09, 09:29
    @Martin--cal #5, snickerdoodle did say to cuddle with a partner/spouse in the initial posting, and I agreed.
    yes, you would hug a friend (but probably not cuddle, unless it was a boy/girlfriend)
    you would hug or cuddle with a child/partner, cuddle with a pet maybe
    I agree that embrace would be quite formal
    #11Author RES-can (330291) 10 Sep 09, 12:52
    I agree with CM2DD (#6). And also wanted to add that you would hug a teddy bear.
    #12Authorbevalisch10 Sep 09, 13:25
    Thanks for the replies everyone. Now, we just need some contributors from Down Under and some other areas south of the equator.

    @Martin - would you ever ever say you cuddled with an adult who was other than your lover/spouse/girlfriend when referring to another adult? (Please respond to this question theoretically since your wife might like if you had another lover or girlfriend.) Would you ever say that you cuddled with a friend of yours or an adult child?

    I found something interesting. In the dictionary it also list cuddle as a noun.

    * Main Entry: 2cuddle
    * Function: noun
    * Date: 1825

    : a close embrace

    I was not aware of this use/sense of the word. I don't believe I have ever employed it. It seems to go with the link about Tom Daley's father asking for a cuddle in public. Does anyone else use cuddle as the noun which in this sense seems like a warm hug? This does seem to allude to the closer and lingering nature of the verb cuddle.
    #13Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 14:08
    Would you ever ever say you cuddled with an adult who was other than your lover/spouse/girlfriend when referring to another adult? Would you ever say that you cuddled with a friend of yours or an adult child?

    No, I can't picture a situation where I would.

    But I'd like to pose a related question to German speakers: Where does the word "schmusen" fit in the spectrum of umarmen / in den Arm nehmen / knuddeln / kuscheln?
    #14Author Martin--cal (272273) 10 Sep 09, 17:41
    I don't know if it's BE usage but "a cuddle" is quite normal to me. "Would you like a cuddle?" "Come and give me a cuddle" and such like. I think we use hug slightly less than AE speakers
    #15AuthorMatt (uk)10 Sep 09, 18:47
    @Matt, who would you ask a cuddle from? A casual friend? A male friend? A co-worker you know well? Only a family member or a really good friend?
    #16Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 18:56
    Probably only my wife, a family member or a very good friend (but most likely not a male friend if I'm honest)
    #17AuthorMatt (uk)10 Sep 09, 19:03
    @Matt, when you think of getting a cuddle does it imply something along the lines of what Martin--cal wrote " ... warm embrace, when sitting or lying side by side, but not involving an overt sexual act."

    Or is it really what an American might just consider a hug?

    Not necessarily an extremely long embrace, possibly a cuddle happens when standing up as often or more often than when say sitting on the couch as Martin alluded?
    #18Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 19:09
    I think it's both - I could be standing next to my sister, for example, and she might say "Can you give me a cuddle?", but similarly a couple might have a cuddle on the couch and that might be a bit more intimate or romantic, even.
    #19AuthorMatt10 Sep 09, 19:11
    Ross: Alright, I panicked, alright? She, she took me by surprise. You know, but it wasn't a total loss. I mean, we ended up cuddling.

    Joey: Whoaa!! You cuddled? How many times?
    #20AuthorAD10 Sep 09, 19:14
    @ Martin--cal, # 14

    Wenn man kuschelt/ aneinander gekuschelt liegt, kann man auch schlafen oder still liegen. kuscheln geht in Richtung entspannen, ruhen, auch zusammen träumen. schmusen ist viel aktiver, man bewegt sich auf jeden Fall dabei, bz.B. sich aneinander "schubbern", bis hin zum (noch) nicht erotischem Küssen :-).

    Deshalb würde ich vielleicht noch mit einem Haustier kuscheln, aber nicht schmusen (z.B. wg der nassen Hundeschnauze).
    #21AuthorIngeborg10 Sep 09, 19:19
    @Matt, if you did on an occasion cuddle/hug a male friend, how would you refer to it? Would it be executed differently than if the friend were female? When might it occur even if ever so rarely?

    I think guys in America would refer to it as a man hug or something along those lines. Hip-hop culture and younger generations probably hug more with friends or even acquaintances than say older generations here.

    Free passes and rules are thrown out the window in many cases when your team wins the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championships, National Title......

    #22Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 10 Sep 09, 20:30
    Ich schließe mich Ingeborg an. Schmusen ist für mich 'Zärtlichkeit mit einer gewissen Aktion', die jedoch nicht unbedingt auf mehr abzielt.
    #23Author Fragezeichen (240970) 10 Sep 09, 20:35
    In Australien (Dee Why) hatte ich eine Kollegin, die regelmäßig zu mir ins Büro kam und sagte "let me give you a cuddle". Die Aktion, die dann folgte, war oftmals nicht einmal eine Umarmung, sondern eher eine leicht distanzierte "Streicheleinheit", eine Berührung am Arm, ein "Wuscheln", jedenfalls sicher ohne erotischen oder sexuellen Hintergedanken. Es gab viele Leute in unserer Abteilung, die sie mit ihren "cuddles" beehrte. Nach meiner Einschätzung hat das niemand komisch oder inadäquat gefunden.

    In Deutschland hat meine liebe Tante Hanne (Jahrgang 1897) mich zur Begrüßung eigentlich immer "drücken" wollen. "Komm, Junge, lass Dich drücken!" - das war mir als ich ein kleiner Junge war eher unangenehm, aber das Wort "drücken" habe ich später wirklich schätzen gelernt. Es ist ein echter Joker und kann praktisch alles heißen, was mit Umarmung zu tun hat. Ich bin männlich und heterosexuell, würde dabei ohne Skrupel zu einem anderen Mann sagen: "Komm, lass Dich drücken!" und würde dann vermutlich einen man-hug oder - je nach Art der Freundschaft - auch eine engere Umarmung folgen lassen. Aber ich drücke auch meine Kinder, und meine Frau sowieso. Die Bedeutung kann also wirklich vom distanzierten embrace/hug bis zum amerikanischen cuddle reichen. Tonfall und Gesichtsausdruck - Körpersprache eben - ist dabei allerdings von größerer Bedeutung.

    Danke, snickerdoodle, dass Du diesen Thread gestartet hast. Ich wäre nach den Erlebnissen im Büro in Australien nie auf die Idee gekommen, dass jemand den Vorschlag "let me give you a cuddle" anders als ein "lass Dich drücken" verstehen könnte. Kann es sein, dass auch im anglophonen Sprachraum die Körpersprache verrät, was ich mit einem cuddle meine? Oder ist das Wort regional einfach tabu, wenn es nicht um familiäre oder sonstwie herzliche oder intime Beziehungen geht? Hat meine Kollegin in Dee Why gegen die Konventionen verstoßen? --- Fragen über Fragen. Ich habe meine australischen Freunde gebeten, sich an dieser Diskussion zu beteiligen. Aber es scheint sie nicht sonderlich zu kümmern. Was auch immer uns das sagen will ...

    @hm -- us: I quite agree that very likely Germans tend to sense a certain phonetic vicinity to "knuddeln" and use the word "cuddle" in that way.
    "Umarmen", however, sounds rather technical to me. Or actually, it has an unclear connotation in today's German. It is somewhat undefined, which is why people tend to rather use words either on the "cute" end, such as "drücken", or they clearly use the more technical approach, and probably do not embrace anyone other than family or close relatives anyway.
    Maybe I should go and join the crossover chat, hoping to get more feedback on my awkward use of words.
    #24Author w5 (de) (250079) 24 Sep 09, 22:11
    Now that this thread continues: could anybody tell me what the best English equivalents
    - kuscheln, and
    - schmusen

    I had always used "to cuddle" when referring to "kuscheln", but now that I have read this thread I am not sure anymore if this is a good idea.
    #25AuthorLondoner(GER)25 Sep 09, 02:47
    For what it's worth, my British boyfriend uses cuddle the way I'd use 'kuscheln' - in a "let's lie really close together on the couch and I will stroke your back" kind of way.
    Daneben sage ich aber auch "Ich habe einen kuscheligen Freundeskreis" und meine, dass wir uns viel in den Arm nehmen, auf dem Schoß sitzen, etc. ohne dass das eine tiefere Bedeutung hätte.

    Im Gegensatz zu Ingeborg schmuse ich mit unserer Katze!
    #26AuthorCara25 Sep 09, 07:42
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