semi-antedating of "baby" = endearment

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 18 14:15:18 UTC 2012

OED 1869 (with a lone outlier in 1684 that isn't in direct address)

1862 (Jan. 8) in Henry M. Naglee _The Love Life of Brig. Gen. Henry M.
Naglee_ [N.p.: pvtly. ptd., 1867] 119 [to his wife]: My own sweetest
baby in all the world. ... Well, Baby, you know how much such
uncertainty would annoy me.

Naglee addresses his wife as "Baby" many times in these letters.

I doubt that anyone has investigated this, but 19th C. exx. (before
the ragtime era)  seem uniformly to express tenderness. Later exx. are
freq. extremely casual or sexually charged.

Undoubtedly late 19th C. libertines addressed their sporting women as
"baby" in a similarly perfunctory way, but the printed record appears
to be silent on this.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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