"sugar daddy"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 21 01:59:13 UTC 2006

FWIW,  according to my mother, when she was in high school,
ca.1923-1927, the ideal boy friend was defined in chickspeak as "a
_sweet papa_, tree-top tall."


On 6/20/06, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at umr.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
> 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
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