White People’s”Baby Daddy”

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When speakers use the phrases”baby daddy”and”baby mama”in non-colloquial contexts, do they mock African-Americans or do they embrace one way that the American vocabulary has been enriched by the contributions of African-Americans?  Both?  Neither?

These phrases seem to pop up everywhere. Shawn Wayans plays one in the spoof movie Dance Flick and Amy Poehler plays one in the comedy Baby Mama.   Angelina Jolie’s”baby daddy”is Brad Pitt (here). Heck, even the President of Paraguay is dubbed a”baby daddy“(here).

Whether one consults the OED, reads the Urban Dictionary or absorbs by cultural osmosis, the phrases’ meanings are the same.   A”baby daddy”is the father of a woman’s child, especially in cases where the child’s parents are not married.  A”baby mama”is … well, you understood it already.   The monikers are pervasive.   The OED provides more background information:

baby-daddy n. colloq. (chiefly in African-American usage) = baby-father n.

baby-father n. (orig. Caribbean and in British Afro-Caribbean usage) the father of a woman’s child, who is not her husband or (in most cases) her current or exclusive partner.

One Slate writer speculates (here) that,”The terms probably arose in Jamaican Creole:where they would have been pronounced “biebifaada” and “biebimada”:before taking hold in standard Jamaican English.”

I don’t want to”turn baby mommas into wives,”as does Maryann Reid, the proponent of”Marry Your Baby Daddy Day“(she appeared on ABC’s 20/20 here).   But there is something self-conscious about the popularization (or is it appropriation?) of the phrases that crosses into twenty-first century blackface minstrelsy, to my ears.

-Bridget Crawford

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