BY ERIN SINGLETON

“She’s my baby,” “I love my baby,” “Where did my baby go?” Ah, the common nickname of “baby,” sometimes shortened to a substituted “babe.” It’s been a term of endearment for God knows how long, a term we tend to not look much into and subconsciously accept as a cutesie little compliment that’d make any girl’s heart skip a beat.

If you think about any song pertaining to love, sex, relationships, breaking up and making up, I guarantee at some point “baby” is tossed in here and there as the artist’s way of asserting their emotions to their lover. How did this notion start, of one belonging to another as this so-called infant? I mean, yes, it sounds incredibly creepy when I put it like that, but isn’t that what “baby” technically signifies?

Of course, we don’t mean to label our lover as an infant. Perhaps it’s just the idea of adoring, cuddling, valuing and being close with that special someone. I gotta say, I do think it’s much less of a creepy explanation than trying to discuss why musicians label their lovers as “daddy” or “mami,” the reciprocal of our mentioned “baby.” When it comes down to it, if an alien from a world galaxies away were to read Justin Bieber’s lyrics of “baby, baby, baby….oh,” then subsequently look up the term in a dictionary, I’m sure it’d feel quite stumped trying to figure out what this lyric could possibly indicate.

“Baby” or “babe” has been a slang term/nickname within our universal scope of music, or rather, scope of entertainment, for as long as we can remember. From Danny’s “That’s cool baby, you know how it is, rockin’ and rollin’ and what not” in the 1978 classic Grease to Britney Spears‘ famous “hit me baby one more time,” “baby” has almost always had a connotation of something holding sexy qualities. To be somebody’s “babe” in comparison to being somebody’s “sweetie”… hm, feel the difference? It puts on a sensual edge, such as the Christmas classic, “Santa Baby.” “Babe” has become a dazzling, mischievous, devilish term all wrapped up into four letters.

But once again, I must ponder the question of why? When it comes down to it, I’m a 20 Watts staff member, not a professional who knows the real context of language and slang, so I can’t properly answer this question. It’s crazy to think that long ago, the mentioning of the word “baby” within music, movies, literature and religious contexts meant it to refer to the baby Jesus Christ, whereas it now typically means lover.

Man, what a jump society has made. It’s not a bad thing by any means, but is certainly weird if you think about it for a bit. The longer you think about it, the stranger it gets. It’s also not an unusual thing, as we probably know far weirder slang words or terms of endearment. I know I’m getting way too deep into this, but I just couldn’t help but think about it as I noticed every single song using the word at least once. Bottom line is: the English language can definitely be a funny thing sometimes, especially in terms of its use within the musical world. I guess I’ll leave it at that, babe.

Photo courtesy of paparutzi on Flicker

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The 20 Watts Staff account is used as a catch-all for posts that cannot be attributed to just one author, or to general site messages from the management.

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  • maya kosoff

    The way pop music infantilizes women is kinda gross and weird! It’s definitely a gendered thing–sure, women artists call dudes “babe” or “baby,” but not with the frequency with which dudes use it to address girls. Good article!

  • Stephanie Bronfein

    I think it also dips into the idea of ownership. You want to claim your lover as only yours in the same way that a baby can be no others but your own (and your lovers, I suppose). Just a thought. I fall into calling people “babe” pretty frequently and hardly ever think anything of it. Great article.