Babymama drama, linguistic.
August 25, 2006 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Is my wife my babymama?

My wife and I have an extended disagreement going as to the propriety of the term "babymama" as it relates to a married mother. My position, as supported by such reputable sources as Eminem, is that the moniker is generic enough to encompass even my wife. She, on the other hand, holds that "babymama" only refers to a mother of your child who is not formally attached. Our friends tend to split rather evenly on this issue, with roughly 75% of the men supporting me and about 75% of the women on her side. What saith the hivemind?
posted by norm to Writing & Language (56 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I agree with your wife. Babymama is a term distinct from wife or girlfriend, since you don't have to be involved any longer.
posted by sugarfish at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2006


I'm with you Norm. Your babymama is the mother of (any one of) your children, regardless of what complicated personal relationship now, then, or in the future.

Good luck with your babymama drama.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:05 PM on August 25, 2006


Urban Dictionary's take
posted by GeekAnimator at 1:06 PM on August 25, 2006


Urbandictionary's top 10 seem to be siding with your wife.
posted by neustile at 1:06 PM on August 25, 2006


...personal relationship [you and she may share] now, then...
posted by Rock Steady at 1:06 PM on August 25, 2006


You're definitely right, you're wife is wrong on this one. Rock Steady has it, key point being: regardless of what complicated personal relationship now, then, or in the future.

posted by dead_ at 1:07 PM on August 25, 2006


I agree with your wife.

NPR usage also supports her position: "'Baby Mama' is slang for the mother of a child born out of wedlock."
posted by Ø at 1:08 PM on August 25, 2006


And I'd also like to take this opportunity to point everyone toward the classic hit, "My Baby'z Mama" by Eazy-E. (Link is to lyrics)
posted by dead_ at 1:09 PM on August 25, 2006


I will clarify that I am, in fact, the father of our child.

Sugarfish's point is one that often comes up to support my wife's side:

I agree with your wife. Babymama is a term distinct from wife or girlfriend, since you don't have to be involved any longer.


The counterargument here is that neither wife nor girlfriend conveys the meaning that "babymama" does, since neither indicate the maternal relation. A friend that weighed in with this point (over libations, natch) last night argued that "mother of my child" is the term in such a case, because of the extra respect accorded. Yet, that doesn't address the fact that this neologism exists as a quick-reference term that is easier to say than such a cumbersome phrase.
posted by norm at 1:09 PM on August 25, 2006


I'm inclined to side with you. A woman cannot be both your wife and your baby mama simultaneously. Should a messy divorce occur, I believe that reversion to baby mama status may be acceptable, though.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:14 PM on August 25, 2006


...since neither indicate the maternal relation

Unless people have information that would put the assumption in question, they're going to assume that your wife is the mother of your child.

You have a point about girlfriends, though.
posted by Ø at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2006


A woman cannot be both your wife and your baby mama simultaneously.

Why not? Doesn't "Baby Mama" imply "Baby's mother"? One can certainly be a man's wife and also the "baby's mother".
posted by dead_ at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2006


Babymama and babbydaddy are terms that, in my vanilla, suburban, WASPish understanding, came about specifically to differentiate between married and unmarried parents. "Baby's mother" implies that your relationship with her is strictly incubatorial. I believe your wife is right.

A wife can be a mother, but not a babymama (unless to another person not her spouse).
A babymama is always a mother, but never a wife (except for soap opera plots as in above)
A mother can be either, but not both (unless...yeah, you get it)
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2006


The Susu in Guinea have this term as well (dinga - di (child) + nga (mother) = baby mama). There it doesn't apply to one's wife (wives) as far as I can tell.
posted by Amizu at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Even if it does connote connection separate from a romantic one, does she really have a problem if you're using it ironically?
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2006


Why not?

Because the whole point of the term is to refer to her while disclaiming (or at least without implying that you have) any current relationship to her.
posted by Ø at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2006


Actually, upon further research, I'm inclined to switch my interpretation and agree with your wife. Here's a lyric from Brand Nubian's "Baby Mama Drama":

If ya have a kid with a chick then I hope that chu' love her /
There's no stress like Baby Mother

Which agrees with much of what has been said above, implying that you have no real (legally recognized?) relationship with the mother of your child.
posted by dead_ at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2006


I'm with your wife. As Ø points out, it's normally used to refer to a women you aren't romantically attached to, she just happens to be the mother of your baby.
posted by chunking express at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2006


Technically she's your "Baby's mamma" but I mean, the way the term is used it dosn't really apply, just like "anti-semite" is used to describe someone who hates jews, rather then someone who hates all semetic people.
posted by delmoi at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2006


What we need is a big collection of examples of people using the term, so that we can see how they use it.

Urbandictionary's a good start, but don't discount the awesome resource that is the Online Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive.

I'm not a linguist, a social scientist or a statistician, but I'll get you started:

"I'll make your baby mama leave you and tell you she love me"--Trick Daddy, 'Based on a True Story'

That's one checkmark under 'inclusive.'
posted by box at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2006


Oh, and your wife is right. As your wife, it is presumed under the law (and in society) that she is the mother of your child(ren). Babymama would be redundant when referring to a wife. It's a special term for the mother of a man's kids when the couple is no longer together (or possibly when they're dating).

If I were a wife and a mama, though, I would consider it a cute, ironic term of endearment if my husband called me his babymama.
posted by Amizu at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2006


Slate says originally no, now, probably yes.
posted by cillit bang at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2006


Ditto Amizu.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:30 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Basically this is similar to a divorcee's saying, "Next weekend my children will be staying with their father." In other words, the relationship to the ex is defined solely in terms of "this is my child, who is also his child."

If a more direct relationship exists (husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, even if you are comfortable saying, "this is is my ex"), then there is no real need for "baby mama."
posted by La Cieca at 1:33 PM on August 25, 2006


Ø has it. The term's rise to prominence filled a void in modern language: what to call the person with whom the only real bond (past, present, or future) is the resulting child.

No doubt your wife's (and many women's) reluctance to accept your loose interpretation of the term stems from the emotional detachment it implies.
posted by deadfather at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2006


I really don't want to confuse the issue any further, but amongst my circle of friends, at least, we've used 'babydaddy' to mean 'a man we would like to have a torrid affair with, but not a relationship,' i.e., "Johnny Depp is my babydaddy."
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2006


Ok, it's clear that the preponderance of the people here are siding (incorrectly, of course!) with my wife, so I'm a-gonna have to lay out my case so that the full argument may be considered.

It seems that there are a few different positions being taken on the definition. Mine is the "babymama inclusive" position, that the term, taken broadly, refers to all mothers of (someone's) children (which leads to the awesome question of "is your mom your dad's babymama?" In every definition, yes, because they are divorced). Some argue for the "babymama exclusive" definition, where the 'mother of my child' is the sole (remaining) relation. My wife, and some of the people here, argue for an "all but married" definition, which is that your girlfriend can be your babymama, but your wife cannot.

I'm so far finding the appeals to authority not necessarily persuasive. I mean, NPR? A legal redundancy argument? This is a newly coined term that is commonly used by, shall we say, an audience that is underserved by the law and public radio. The urban dictionary is user defined and therefore of questionable reliability.

A more convincing vein of evidence does appear to be hip-hop lyrics, as this shows the actual usage of this new vernacular. As mentioned in the [more inside], Eminem clearly makes reference to Kim as his babymama, despite their married status. I can think of lyrics from both Outkast and Lil' Jon that refer to babymamas that are jealous of their other women. These examples argue pretty convincingly against "babymama inclusive", but my wife points out that her "all but married" definition is not touched by such.

I find all of this very, perhaps unnaturally, interesting.
posted by norm at 1:41 PM on August 25, 2006


Of course I meant "babymama exclusive" in my last actual paragraph. D'oh.
posted by norm at 1:42 PM on August 25, 2006


Yes but WERE Eminem and Kim married at the time of the song?
posted by exceptinsects at 1:49 PM on August 25, 2006


I am reminded that I used to refer to my wife as "the married woman I live with".

Of course, she once introduced me as "browse, my first husband" (whilst we were still married).

Do I even need to say I'm no longer married?
posted by browse at 1:50 PM on August 25, 2006


Eminem and Kim have been divorced twice, I believe. Maybe he refered to her as his babymama when she was not his wife.


Yes, the BBC (!) reported that Eminem and Kim divorced for a second time.
posted by Amizu at 1:52 PM on August 25, 2006


I agree with the "all but wife" definition - Eminem is a tricky case that I do not think applies, because him and "Mrs. Shady" have been alternately married and divorced - she has been both his wife AND babymama.

Furthermore, I think babymama is often used more specifically (by men) to refer to situations where they live with (or take care of, etc) a woman and their child, but are still somehow "unattached" and free to roam about with other women. They have an obligation to their "babymama" that is different than an obligation to a girlfriend or wife. (This is mostly from that awful show "Cheaters").
posted by muddgirl at 1:54 PM on August 25, 2006


I don't think any one can say for sure if your wife is your babymama.

When 50% of people say one thing and 50% say the other, than the word means both things. (I personally think she is your babymama -- she is your baby's mama after all.)

But one thing you can be sure of: If you get divorced, she won't be your ex-wife, she'll definitely be your babymama.
posted by milarepa at 1:58 PM on August 25, 2006


It's not technically erroneous to call your wife your babymama. But it does imply that you consider her to be the woman who pushed out your kid, and that's it. Which is not how most men would characterize their wife. (Unless they're looking to be no longer burdened by matrimony.)
posted by desuetude at 2:13 PM on August 25, 2006


norm, I'm bemused: Most AxMe peeps be hangin' wit' yo lady on this one. So howzat diss you, bro?

After all, we're discussing a slang definition in the hiphop world. You want a final answer? Take it to the MLA.
posted by rob511 at 2:15 PM on August 25, 2006


I wouldn't think it was cute if my husband referred to me as his babymama. I think of that word as a somwhat deragatory term implying that, as others have said, the only connection between the two people is their child. Not unlike a divorced parent referring to their ex as "my son's father".
posted by clh at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2006


I got a man but I really want yours/
That nigga had you thinking he was with his boys/
You just the babymama and I don't see the drama/
- Dirty South Divas, "Yo Baby Daddy"

She gon be somebody/
Instead of somebody-babymama/
- De La Soul, "Trying People"

You comin in when ya shorty take ya lil one to school/
Even though she caused the drama, you love ya babymama/
- 50 Cent, "I'll Whip Your Head Boy"

Gotta hurt I'm your babymama's favorite rapper/
And ask your current girl, she knows what's up/
- Jay-Z, "Super Ugly"

So, I'm starting to come around to a slightly different conclusion on this. And here's the thing: regardless of whether it is technically correct to say that your wife is your babymama, it is not appropriate (well, I'm assuming some things here). It is clearly a negative term. If not actually derogatory, it is certainly dismissive. Whether or not you are married to your babymama, you probably don't respect her.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:17 PM on August 25, 2006


I would just suggest that perhaps she - and many other females - are uncomfortable with the implication that your relationship to her is expressed solely through shared creation of offspring. It implies, to me, that the woman's key role in the relationship is of mother rather than chosen companion ('wife').

So I side with the 'don't use it for someone you're married to', because there's already a more unique term for that person which doesn't require a referent.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:19 PM on August 25, 2006


I take great delight in referring to my brother's wife as his "babymama". But she probably refers to me as the sister-in-law from hell.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:37 PM on August 25, 2006


Babymama is the ex-girlfriend you had a kid with, and didn't care for enough to have a relationship with. I didn't realise there could be any kind of debate as to what it meant, but maybe I've watched too much Ricki Lake in my time.
posted by saturnine at 2:39 PM on August 25, 2006


Another agreement with your wife - the term would have a negative connotation should you apply it to the woman you're married to. It applies to a woman you have no other attachment, hence needing a way to describe your connection to her (mother of your child).
posted by Melinika at 2:50 PM on August 25, 2006


ferociouskitty: "You keep on using that word. I do no think it means what you think it means."
posted by The Bellman at 2:52 PM on August 25, 2006


Only if she's also your future ex-wife.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:19 PM on August 25, 2006


Your wife is correct - the term is used to refer to women who are the mother of your child but not your legal wife or social girlfriend.
posted by falconred at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2006


History will bear out my interpretation. Every time Kevin Federline is called a baby daddy, an angel gets his wings we move closer to the inclusive meaning.
posted by norm at 3:55 PM on August 25, 2006


One thing is clear -- rappers like rhyming "babymamma" and "drama". There should be a campaign for new rhymes. "I was with your babymamma/while you were in the slammer" -- see? How hard is that? Exercise for the reader: "grammar", "Yokohama", "Dalai Lama".

I agree that the word shouldn't be used for wives, and using Eminem and Kim as an example of a married couple isn't going to win many arguments.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


I do believe that the concept of baby's mama, and baby's daddy came about as an easy way of saying, "The father of my child," or "The mother of my child," in instances where saying, "My husband," or "My wife," wouldn't fit. So I believe the general assumption is that if someone is your baby mamma, or your baby daddy, you are not married (otherwise, you would say husband/wife.)

HOWEVER, there is nothing that prohibits it from being used for people who are married.

For example, the use of the word "lover" (as in, "He's my lover") implies that there isn't a marriage. And yet I know of two different married couples wherein one person refers to the other as a lover, and the term is accurate, even though the connotation might trip the casual listener up.
posted by precocious at 4:48 PM on August 25, 2006


"I was with your babymamma/while you were in the slammer" -- see? How hard is that?

In what accent does that rhyme?
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 4:58 PM on August 25, 2006


you are right and everybody else is wrong. Rock Steady nailed it
posted by afu at 5:22 PM on August 25, 2006


Why not? Doesn't "Baby Mama" imply "Baby's mother"? One can certainly be a man's wife and also the "baby's mother".

That's not how language works. The only relevant consideration is how it's used (delmoi's comparison to "anti-semite" is excellent), and my impression (supported by most of what's been cited here) is that it's not used for wives. Case closed, and defendant is ordered to mollify his wife like a man.

*slams gavel, pours one for his homies*
posted by languagehat at 5:25 PM on August 25, 2006 [3 favorites]


"This is a newly coined term that is commonly used by, shall we say, an audience that is underserved by the law and public radio. The urban dictionary is user defined and therefore of questionable reliability."

The Slate article had a good explication of the term, which dates from the '60s.

We can only help you so much if you just want to be told you're right (which you're not).

(And I add to this that I've just discussed this with a pal who does rehab intake interviews, who supports the general belief that your wife is right and that you are wrong.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:31 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


And no matter what anyone outside of your marriage says it does or does not mean, when your wife hears you say it about her, she hears you calling her the mother of your child to whom you are not formally attached. Is this what you want her to think you're saying?
posted by raedyn at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2006


In what accent does that rhyme?

Granted it's an assonant rhyme, but slammer does rhyme with mamma in non-rhotic dialects.
posted by Human Flesh at 4:48 PM on August 26, 2006


I'm with languagehat. I've heard lots of urban teenage kids (I'm a foster parent) use the word (phrase?) "babbymamma," and have never ever (ever) heard it being used to describe someone with whom there is a current social relationship. Same with clients at our direct services law clinic at work.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:28 AM on August 28, 2006


I suddenly feel compelled to post the lyrics to My Baby Daddy, out of sheer fairness.

I second all those who say that baby mama's are someone you impregnated, but didn't have much of a relationship with.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2006


I'll note that the consensus agrees with my wife. I'll further note that many of the piler-onners late in the thread have a serious problem with a) not using warrants with their claims; b) making precipitous assumptions about the way I use the term; and c) acting superior. Get over yourselves. It's a question about the word "babymama", you dorks.
posted by norm at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2006


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