"sugar daddy"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jun 21 01:37:19 UTC 2006

  According to Leadbitter & Slaven's _Blues Records_, p. 64, "Sugar Daddy Blues" was recorded by in 1924.

  Maines & Grant's _Wise-Crack Dictionary_ of 1926 has "Sugar Daddy--Girl's lollypop for the evening" (p. 13).

  It says here http://www.answers.com/topic/nellie-florence that "Jacksonville Blues" was recorded in 1929.


  "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
Subject: Re: "sugar daddy"

I've been looking at Barry Popik's interesting 6/17/06 message on "sugar daddy," in which he antedates the term by three years (1926 back to 1923).

But besides meaning "an older, wealthy man who supports/helps a young female lover," the term appeared in the speech of African-Americans with an entirely different meaning: (from a woman's perspective): "her sweet lover."
So, for example, Nellie Florence ("Jacksonville Blues") could sing: "But this sugar daddy is sweet enough for me." The reference is simply to a lover, no an older, rich man.

My assumption has been that the term arose first in the speech of African-Americans ("daddy," "papa" = a male lover; "sugar" simply refers to something sweet) and was misinterpreted by whites. Whites familiar with cant apparently misinterpreted "sugar daddy" (sweet lover) to be comprised of "sugar" (= money) + "daddy" (a man old enough to be the father of his woman companion"; he is also of course her lover.)

I wrote this up in my brief article '"Sugar Daddy" Once More,' in _Studies in Slang, vol. 2_ (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang), 1989, pp. 142-143.
I'm now wondering: Is there anyway to date the African-American term "sugar daddy" (sweet lover)?

Gerald Cohen

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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