My friend Bianca asked yesterday if she's the only one who is acknowledged with "hey Girl," by the "ol boys at the car shop." Part of her finds it endearing/down-home and the other part, she couldn't put her finger on. But her "context radar" (a great term I plan to shamelessly appropriate) said it's ok.
I would concur, adding that I think a world where we all rely on terms of endearment to address each other would make the world a better place.
For example, I know whenever I see my gal Kimmy's number on the blackberry, it will be a delight to pick up the phone and be greeted with "hello Lambchop." She and I both use that interchangeably with "Sweet Potato," which originated as the appellation by which we all once knew (BlackCatBone/Taildragger's) Johnny McGee, because that is what one of my girlfriends who had a crush on him called him: he was "lil Sweet Potato." Now we all use it (he's happily married with kids and probably gets more endearment and affection now that he even needs).
Terms of endearment that involve Food are typically better than ones that do not. See also: Honey, Sugar (or "Shug," if that's just too formal), and Sweetie. Folks I know and love especially well may someday work their way up to "Doll." (That's what I call my Hair Gay. He typically calls me Babe, another of my favorites.)
I address most of the people I went to college with as "Baby," pronounced BeBe (or BeyBey), because I adapted it from my Louisiana relatives, going back to the days when we used to spend family vacations in New Orleans. I do not, however, call anyone Cher (except for, of course, Cher herself, and she doesn't come up as often as you might think in a social circle so heavily gay-populated). About half of my graduating class still calls me by a b-nickname that originated at college and goes back to a 70s tv show, but it only ever followed me to my first job. It stayed with me through my first fiance, and then kinda disappeared when we broke up, which is ok. My friend Phoef still uses it, but her husband's been Off At War, so we hardly ever see them.
If someone worked on my car or served me omelets and didn't call me Honey or Baby or Sweetie, I would worry what I'd done to offend them. The nurses at my doctor's and dentist's only see me once a year or so, and stick with the more formal, "Girrrrrrrl." If they're really new, they call me MizAce (that's also used by my BFF, though she is allowed to shorten it to Acey-Ace). Nieces and nephews may call me Aunt Ace or the more formal Bitter Aunt Ace. They most certainly may NOT address me by my first name (any more than they are allowed to look me in the eye).
One of the dirty secrets I've been accused of that goes with my affection for Pet Names is the fact that I am TERRIBLE with real-life names and it's just a cover for my social gracelessness (which is legendary). I used to always greet strangers with "nice to meet you," until I got so frequently busted with "I have met you FOUR HUNDRED times!" (Fine, then, I guess it is NOT nice to meet you after ALL.) My gay husband knows to begin every conversation where ever we go with "Hi, I'm Nick, and you are....?" so I can slide in and get the name (which he will then repeat to me over and over till I get some kinda Rainman grasp on it).
If he's not with me, I just uniformly fake it with, "heyyyyyyy, YOUuuuuuuu" -- and then I noticed that's usually how my sometime-cooking-companion greets me about half of the time. I know perfectly well he knows my name (I hate it anyway; it's a hooker's name).... but I also think it's entirely possible he sticks with personal pronouns to safely avoid calling me somebody else's name. Works for me. Whatever it takes. (To keep him alive, that is.)