babe/baby
Posted: 03 November 2015 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Where did these endearments originate and why? I’m guessing they were popularized in jazz and/or blues music. They were certainly widespread in folk, pop and rock music by the 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. They perhaps suggest that a woman needs nurturing, protecting and pampering like a baby which we would now consider sexist until you remember American woman direct them at partners, kids and friends too. I haven’t heard them used as endearments in Britain but maybe they are in circles I don’t know, or were in the 1960s or early 1970s. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin had no shortage of babes and babies in his deathless lyrics and would surely have taken them home with him, vernacularly, along with other hippies. Get your laughing gear around that, baby.

That reminds me of the Virginia Slims feminist cigarette slogan You’ve come a long way, baby. The American tennis player Rosie Casals tried to sneak a stylized and, to British eyes, unknown VS motif onto her white Wimbledon dress but someone told the old codgers and they simply wouldn’t stand for it. I think they still insist on white apparel because they’ve always done it that way.

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Posted: 03 November 2015 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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According to the Etymology Online Thingy:

As a term of endearment for one’s lover it is attested perhaps as early as 1839, certainly by 1901; its popularity perhaps boosted by baby vamp “a popular girl,” student slang from c. 1922.

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Posted: 04 November 2015 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The OED (2011) has an isolated citation from 1684, but otherwise appears to have originated in the US in the 1860s. There is an 1835 citation of baby as a non-romantic form of address between men. Babe as a term of endearment for a woman appears c.1900 in the US.

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Posted: 06 November 2015 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks. I’m still puzzled how babe and baby became endearments between adults, especially men at one point. We can all see how sweetheart, honey, dude, bro, etc did.

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Posted: 06 November 2015 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"What’s happening, baby?”

In the 60’s everyone was baby, in fact, Murry the K had a television special called “It’s What’s Happening, Baby” in 1965.

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Posted: 06 November 2015 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Terms of endearment are frequently based on diminutives, and you can’t get much more diminutive than baby. It seems a perfectly natural development to me, and the surprising thing is that it happened relatively recently.

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Posted: 07 November 2015 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I said much of that in my OP, happydog, including Virginia Slims’ contribution.

Dave, do you mean diminutive in size, or, say, ‘’hon’’ as an abbreviation of ‘’honey’’? Baby as a small adult? What other examples are there? Pussy is more a synecdoche. Betty for Elizabeth?

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Posted: 08 November 2015 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I was thinking of both size and the retention on neotenic traits.

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Posted: 18 November 2015 02:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I still use this one frequently, to everyone (except female co-workers in the office and family), but to friends, kids, etc. as a term of endearment. Maybe it is a jazz thing (I play trumpet and am engrossed in jazz and bebop culture). Harry James used to call his sidemen “babe,”, especially the younger players, and then they also use it frequently on The Three Stooges shorts (in “Nutty But Nice” one of the gangster kidnappers who kidnapped a bank executive uses it when he walks into the room where the victim is tied up.. “Hi ya babe") so it seemed to be a gangster thing also..

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Posted: 18 November 2015 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Somewhat in line with the jazz association, I think of the use (between men) as a show-biz thing, especially the Rat Pack and their generation, but it had a broader domain in the ‘60s.

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Posted: 19 November 2015 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes, I definitely associate it with the Rat Pack.  Which reminds me, my wife and I recently caught a rerun of The Producers on TV; it’s still very funny, though some of it has dated badly, and one of the things that struck me was that Lorenzo St. DuBois (played by Dick Shawn), the beatnik type who winds up playing Hitler in the musical-within-the-musical, keeps calling everybody “baby.” Shows you how out of touch with Kids Today Mel Brooks was; it would have been a devastating satire a decade earlier, but by 1967 it just looked bizarre.

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Posted: 19 November 2015 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Shows you how out of touch with Kids Today Mel Brooks was; it would have been a devastating satire a decade earlier, but by 1967 it just looked bizarre.

Or perhaps that was part of the joke.

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Posted: 19 November 2015 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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When I first saw this, I thought the subject was babelbaby.

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Posted: 20 November 2015 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Or perhaps that was part of the joke.

Maybe?  Brooks was forty when he made the movie, so in that vast no-man’s-land between young-and-automatically-hip and old-and-automatically-out-of-it.  But if it was supposed to be part of the joke, it fell flat—I remember when I first saw the movie I found the character odd—so I’m opting for L7, daddy-o!

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