Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits is a tribute to Nayland Blake as much as to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Also premiered at the art gallery rooftop concert in summer 1998 [discussed on the page for The Book of Love] before recording really commenced. Nayland is famous for his bunny imagery, which Stephin Merritt was rather taken with at that time. I think itís the saddest song Stephin has ever written, actually… all that death.
Allegedly, Blake's use of the character of a bunny rabbit in his artwork began as a way of discussing the stereotype of homosexual male promiscuity [source]. See his [oversized bunny costume] and [Heavenly Bunny Suit].
People have speculated about the origin of the line 'Let abbots, Babbitts and Cabots' (see example from Stephinsongs email list). The most likely explanation is that it is a kind of reflexive in-joke about rhyming dictionaries — notwithstanding Stephin Merritt's claim in the 69 Love Songs booklet that "I've spent the whole time of 69 Love Songs without a rhyming dictionary". Elsewhere Stephin recommends the [Clement Wood Rhyming Dictionary] (source: interview with Monica Lynch in Index magazine), but says he uses a range of dictionaries. The rhymes given for AB'it (the syllable coupling to which rabbit belongs) by Clement Wood begin: babbitt, Babbitt, cohabit, grab it etc. However [Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary] lists the rhymes for abit as: abbot, babitt, Babbitt and Cabot, which is too close to the lyric to be coincidence.
Though the rhyming dictionaries are not specific about the Babbitts to which they refer, Stephin Merritt probably favours the experimental composer and theorist Milton Babbitt [link].
On the other hand, there's an early George and Ira Gershwin song, "The Babbitt and the Bromide", which was originally sung on stage by Fred Astaire and his sister Adele, and later appeared in the film Ziegfeld Follies sung by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. In this song — see [lyrics] — a Babbitt is a boring, workaday person (as is a bromide).
It should also be remembered that Merritt grew up and went to school in Boston, where the Cabots were the supreme family of Boston's social elite.