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May 22, 2003

Slang of the Week: chickadee (noun)
young woman

Burt saw a cute little chickadee at the end of the bar.

Celebrity quote:
"So please be sweet, my chickadee
And when I kiss you, just say to me
'It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely' "
-Cole Porter, from the song It's De-Lovely, 1936

For some reason, men just like to describe women as birds. The chickadee is a small, round, black and white bird found in North America. As a slang word, chickadee is an old-fashioned variation on the more usual chick, which means "baby bird" in standard English. Its most famous usage was in comedian W.C. Fields' 1940 movie My Little Chickadee.

Although we associate chick, and especially hippy chick, with the 1960s, it has been used since around 1900. The British equivalent, in the 60s and back to the early 1800s, was bird. In the 1920s, American women were also referred to as wrens (another small bird) as well as chicklets, another variation on chick (based on the chewing gum brand name Chiclets).

More recently, the word dove has been popular, especially with hip hop artists like MC Breed, who says of his girlfriend, “The only hoe (whore) I ever loved… my dove.” Romantic, no?