‘Baby’ is an endearing term people use to call their husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend in the English language. Almost every love song will have the word ‘baby’ or ‘babe’ in it. Have you ever wondered where did the term came from?
‘Baby’ and ‘babe’ first came up around year 1400s in England, used to describe ‘a human child.’
People started to use the term to describe a romantic partner in America around 19th century. At first, men used ‘baby’ to call each other without any romantic feeling to it. (How time has changed!) That was in 1835.
In 1911, Oxford English Dictionary began to list ‘babe’ with romantic connotation. The word didn’t show up again until 1960s, in a letter by General H. M. Naglee. Starting in 1915, ‘baby’ began to be used to describe an attractive woman. But only in 1975 that ‘baby’ began to used to describe attractive men. Notice how the meaning had changed rapidly from 1835 to 1975 alone.
Nowadays, there are different variety of the word. ‘Bae’ is commonly used as an Internet slang. ‘Bae’ itself is short for ‘before anyone else.’
Katherine Connor Martin, head of US dictionaries in Oxford English Dictionaries, explained the different terms people had used to call their loved ones throughout the ages.
Words like ‘honey’ and ‘sugar’ began to be used in early 20th century. Whilst ‘cinnamon’ and ‘honeysop’ were popular even between 1400-1500s. Even ‘lamb chop’ was commonly used in 1960s. Hm… I love you, dear lamb chop.
According to Connor Martin, American English played a big role in spreading the use of ‘baby,’ especially through pop music.
Today, ‘baby’ is used to describe both a human child and someone attractive. Whilst ‘babe’ is exclusively for someone attractive. Even in Indonesian language, we often see ‘beb’ being adsorbed in our daily life.
Is there any endearment term you’d like to share with us?
Source: New York Magazine’s The Cut