Babe in the woods is an idiom with a very old source. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech or literary devices often use descriptive imagery; common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. An idiom may be a euphemism, an understatement or exaggeration, or an expression of irony or hyperbole. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, red herring, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase babe in the woods, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A babe in the woods is someone who is naive, inexperienced, or innocent. The expression a babe in the woods is often used to describe someone who cannot understand complexity or nuance, or someone who does not understand treachery. The idiom a babe in the woods is derived from a popular ballad that began circulating in the sixteenth century that was variously titled Babes in the Woods, Babes in the Wood, or Children in the Wood. In the story, two orphans are abandoned in the forest by their evil uncle, who wishes to steal their inheritance. The children die and are covered with a carpet of leaves by robins. In the end, the uncle is punished for his sins. The plural form of babe in the woods is babes in the woods.
The average age at any of these events is likely to be 70, so depending on your vintage, you’ll either be among your peers, or a babe in the woods. (The New Zealand Herald)
“I wanted her on the next plane — she was a total babe in the woods,” recounts photo editor Marilyn Grabowski, who worked at Playboy for 43 years. (The New York Post)
I was a babe in the woods in the health care industry—and I had to lean hard into Leadership Hack #22 from Leadership and Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur and Executive: Keep your mouth shut and eyes open. (Forbes Magazine)