Sunday, October 10, 2004


Referring to attractive women as "babes" seems to have passed out of fashion. Was that just an '80s thing? Remember when people would say things like "What a babe!" and "Look at that babe in the bikini!"? Now, you pretty much only hear it as a term of endearment, where you might substitute "honey" or "sweetheart," as in "Hey babe, your butt looks bitchin'."

"Chicks" still gets use in certain situations, when referring to "hot chicks" or White Chicks, for instance. Granted, it doesn't enjoy the wide usage it did in the '60s and '70s--when did "chick" start, anyway? I could even imagine a '50s guy saying it. That might have been the decade when we transitioned from "bird" to "chick."

"Babe" was always an awkward way to refer to women anyway. I never liked how it was easily confused with references to young children, and how made Babe Ruth seem effeminate by association.

In the very first Archie Comics story, circa 1941 or so, Archie wanted people to call him by his nickname, "Chick," which he believed sounded cooler. That character detail disappeared early on, but in retrospect it's very odd to read.


lydia said...

I went to the Metreon Anime Festival yesterday, and on my way to the 19th St. Oakland BART (dressed as Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII), this guy yelled: You delicious, baby!

Anyway, I think "babe" is still a pretty common term here in Oaktown, even when you're not dressed as an FF chick.

lyan! said...

I meant to post this earlier, but for your page, it always takes too long to load. Anyway, I don't know if 'bird' was ever really popular in America, i always thought that to be british slang. Sure there's gotta be some schmoes over here using it, but they're stupid. And babes? yeah, i think it's been timecoded. I remember watching Wayne's World a couple months back, and it felt... so early 90s, and even still, so chicago-early 90s. I mean i know the utterance of babe went beyond waynes world, but i think that the comic use of it in things like that movie attributed to its somewhat widespread dissappearance in the late 90s, new millennia. Also, this is a stretch of a hypothesis, but what if the movie Babe (about the pig) gave 'babe' a different connotation, and therefore made it less likely to be used, or less frequent among those who wouldn't be able to see the context right off.

C said...

I wonder if babe (baby) started as slang involving hot underage girls or women who look underage. barely leagal xxx etc. o maybe young just equals hot to creepy old guys, the younger the better...maybe pedophilia has passed out of fashion?

i tend to think of chick as being derogatory, not very much so, just enough to show annoyance "so the chick behind to counter is too dumb to help me, so i have to call the manager"

cyshas said...

Isn't Babe the pig that has his very own movie? I let guys call me "baby," but Babe is a pig so... *_*

Zack said...

Whoa whoa whoa, Babe is a *gallant* pig. A gallant pig. You should be so flattered.

I attribute the whole phenomenon to an equating of youth with fertility, that sort of thing. Underage brides were all the rage for, you know, thousands of years. As a linguist[ics student], I would expect to find a rich selection of terms for attractive females which originally meant "young", and to also NOT find a comparable selection for attractive males. I'm thinking lazy thoughts, but the -chan suffix in Japanese comes to mind. Arguably Japanese anime culture as a whole comes to mind.

lydia said...

Zack does have a soft spot for Babe the pig (mentioned by first Ryan and then Cyshas--please read all comments before posting, babe ;) ) and made me watch the movie to explain why, for a brief period of time, he kept trying to call me "pig" (usually in the context of "That'll do, pig")... The movie was fine, but in the end, I opted to be called "babe" rather than "pig."