Jacob Elordi is so babygirl. Credit: Courtesy of Saint Laurent

Each generation brings its unique slang that can leave those outside of it feeling like they’re playing catch-up. Gen Z, the generation born roughly between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, is no exception. With their finger firmly on the pulse of internet culture and social media trends, Gen Zs are notorious for birthing a plethora of new terms and phrases that can sometimes leave older generations scratching their heads. Think – ‘rizz’, ‘ate’, ‘simp’, you name it. But what’s the latest term in this lexicon that’s causing a stir? Enter ‘babygirl’.

The term was recently used on Saturday Night Live (SNL) when Saltburn actor, Jacob Elordi made a guest appearance with Mean Girls’ Renee Rapp as a musical guest. In an SNL skit, two stars alongside comedian Bowen Yang cracked jokes about the Saltburn star being “so babygirl”. But what exactly does it mean and why are people using it to describe men instead of women?

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What does babygirl mean?

The original term ‘babygirl’ is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to someone who is cutesy and endearing. However, in this day and age, people are using the term to describe a man with energy that’s vulnerable, submissive, and somewhat cutesy. It’s a way for Gen Z to buck against toxic masculinity, and celebrate men who aren’t afraid to embrace their feminine sides.

Credit:Courtesy of Valentino

Pedro Pascal is another name often labelled as a babygirl.

According to Urban Dictionary, the term is used to describe a man who is ‘extremely sexually attractive with a good personality.’ Another definition characterises them as ‘male characters who do questionable things but are so sad and pathetic you can’t help but love them.’

Where did it come from?

The term being used for men can be traced back to an updated 2020 Wattpad post. The post modified a panel from the Mob Psycho 100 manga, introducing the question “Why does serizawa call you babygirl?” This then marked the inception of the exploitable meme known as ‘Why Does X Call You Babygirl?’

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Eventually, the edit went viral on platforms like Tumblr and Twitter in August 2021, drawing many reiterations, depicting mostly male fictional characters asking one another why they were being called babygirls. Ever since then, the popularity of the term has continued to grow and has been used as an ubiquitous fandom slang, that refers to soft-spoken men who possess traditionally feminine traits, and middle-aged antiheroes such as Breaking Bad’s Walter White.

What’s in the babygirl checklist?

On the Today Show with Hoda & Jenna, the two hosts described the term to have certain characteristics. These include:

  • A male-identifying person over 25 years old
  • Cutesy in a slightly submissive way
  • Has a bad boy side but isn’t intimidating
  • Soft and secure in his masculinity
  • Has gone through some sort of emotional journey
  • Is Paul Mescal in all forms

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Is it a demeaning term?

The term may initially seem demeaning, but it also serves as a means of celebrating the softer, more vulnerable aspects of men. In fact, it is often used in a positive light to highlight favourable qualities in a man.

Additionally, within Gen Z culture, there’s a tendency to subvert trends quickly after their inception. As such, ‘so babygirl’ has been repurposed to compliment brooding, antiheroic figures in their 40s who exude a certain allure. Characters like Walter White from Breaking Bad, Kendall Roy from Succession, or Joel from The Last of Us, portrayed by Pedro Pascal, fit this description. Despite some attempts to define its usage, there’s no clear consensus on who qualifies as ‘so babygirl,’ with the term accommodating layers of irony and self-referential humour within contemporary discourse.

This article first appeared in Her World