Let me start off by saying I would not call just anyone ‘babe’ as I regard it as a compliment to a good looking woman. I do admit it is a personal and rather familiar phrase, so perhaps better expressed when your admired company is reciprocating to your attraction.
There are many circumstances that need to be understood. Does the object of your affection carry too much weight? Perhaps babe is then synonymous with the big screen pig, and not appropriate.
Babe can be regarded as an insult by insinuating the person is naïve and gullible. Well, she probably would have to be if she agreed to go out with me in the first place – but not my true intention of the meaning of babe. Babe could actually mean a child. I personally enjoy adults and maturity, so I won’t be sitting in a cell with Gary Glitter anytime soon.
The etymology of the word babe can be traced back to the 14th Century and was most likely an abbreviation of the Welsh word baban, which is thought to be imitative of the first sounds that babies make. Having said this, I guess it is a totally demeaning and sexist to call an adult babe.
But I stick to my ignorance and endearment, as I have no malice intended when I use the word babe.
Could be worse – I could say ‘bokkie – ek is lief vir jou’.