As a non-native English speaker, I am not sure what is the meaning of this pattern "_ baby _" as in "run baby run"? Another example: "USA continues to "drill baby drill" (referring to oil). What other verbs can I use for this pattern?

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    "Burn baby burn" was the first time I remember hearing that pattern used as a slogan TO ENCOURAGE SOMETHING (the 1965 Watts riots in LA and what they represented in the "burn" case). – Papa Poule Nov 22 '14 at 17:35
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    This pattern is not specific to the word baby: anything that can be understood as a vocative can be used. Fight, man, fight! works just as well, as does the by now almost legendary “Run, Forrest, run!”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 22 '14 at 17:41
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    If you are using this term to talk to another person, note that some people will object to the term baby being applied to them. – pazzo Nov 22 '14 at 18:21
  • Good and true point, @CarSmack , but don't you think that if said with a cute enough "foreign" accent the speaker might be forgiven? – Papa Poule Nov 22 '14 at 18:31
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet: I think you may be talking to Lady Luck there. – TRomano Nov 22 '14 at 21:53

Baby here is, as Janus Bahs Jacquet says, a vocative naming the person addressed. Baby is ordinarily a term of endearment, but in this context it implies alliance or collegiality rather than affection. This slang use was hip in the 50s and 60s, but it is heard less now.

The repeated verb on the outside is cast in the imperative.

The whole is an eager or urgent exhortation to the person addressed as baby to perform the action of the verb: “Do it, {baby/man/girl/NAME/etc.}, do it!”

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  • Now it is "sister" or "brother". – TRomano Nov 22 '14 at 18:51
  • @TRomano Or dude .. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 22 '14 at 18:52

"Baby" here is generally not referring to any particular person. In fact, it's hard to say that it refers to a person at all.

In the 60s culture "baby" was often used as more of an interjection, in some cases approximating "huh?" or "eh?" in meaning, in others perhaps used as you would "guy" or "pal" or "bloke", as in "Whadaya say, baby? Let's go get lunch." (A weak example, but I tried to pick something with minimal innuendo.)

In "Burn, baby, burn!" it's used as an intensifier, giving the rather bland "Burn, burn!" much more punch. Most other uses of the form "word, baby, word" are imitations of the original "Burn, baby, burn!"

Note that most of these uses do not overlap with the affectionate use of "baby" to refer to a child or to one's intimate friend -- that's a different case entirely.

[It is worth noting that, speaking as one who was not there in Watts at the time (and not a card-carrying member of the "counterculture") the phrase "Burn, baby, burn!" achieved notoriety not because it was (necessarily) shouted by everyone in Watts but because some reporters (supposedly) heard it (or perhaps read it in fliers being circulated) and reported it, and the headline "Burn, baby, burn!" then appeared on newspapers across the country. Had the phrase not received that incredible amount of national (and international) publicity at that pivotal moment in history it likely would have vanished without a whimper.

It's also worth noting that the situation that triggered the Watts riots was not substantially different from the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri.]

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  • Putting on the shrink cap: addressing the inferno as "baby" projects one's sexual desire onto the flames; the vocative "baby" unites paroxysm and conflagration in an act of self-immolation. – TRomano Nov 22 '14 at 19:01
  • @TRomano - But that interpretation is not consistent with the use of "baby" in the 60s culture (especially black culture). – Hot Licks Nov 22 '14 at 19:04
  • @TRomano - Was there something in particular in that (rather biased) article you wanted to point out? – Hot Licks Nov 22 '14 at 19:34

It is an intensifier. You can use it informally, though very flexibly. "Eat, baby, eat!" "Drink, baby, drink!" "Win, baby, win!"

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