This is another one of those sentences that make a hilarious image come to mind.
Thank you for reminding me that--whatever sordid life we may have lead thus far, or may have yet to live; whatever cruelty and horrors may surround us, refusing to grant us the balm of either agency or inclusion; whatever abysmal truths may fly as locusts from the twisted, gaping maw of life (& death)--it could ALWAYS be worse...
...MUCH, MUCH worse!!
Mi amas ĉi tiun frazon. "Ĉi tiu" = this.
In Esperanto we have to use the accusative case and add the ending -n, in order to show the object, in this case the thing what I am loving. This feature makes the language more flexible, as we can change the word order, and show emphasis more easily than in English. "Ĉi tiun frazon mi amas" = It is this phrase that I love.
"Ĉi" only means that a thing is close to you. Thus, "tiu" = it / that; "ĉi tiu" = this. Even the word "tiu" needs the accusative ending, therefore the form in this sentence is "ĉi tiun".
The word bebo doesn't specify gender and it doesn't really need to, since in Esperanto little kids (so young, that its gender doesn't matter) are addressed by the pronoun ĝi (although, if one wants to, one can use gender-specifying pronoun li or ŝi).
There are some ways to specify the gender of bebo, but all of them are quite unusual, so let me not mention them. :D
You're quite right. In Latin malus meant “bad, evil [adj]”, then in Old French it became mal meaning “bad, evil [adj]”, “pain, suffering” or “evil [n]”. In Modern French it can mean all of that, but it can also be used as a prefix. And as a prefix it means “badly, wrongly” but sometimes it can also simply denote the opposite (heureux is “happy”, malheureux is “sad, unhappy”; propre is “clean”, malpropre is “dirty, unclean”; honnête is “honest”, malhonnête is “dishonest”; voyant is “seeing [adj]”, malvoyant is “visually impared”, entendant is “hearing [adj]”; malentendant is “deaf, hearing-impared”).
Zamenhof chose this secondary meaning of the French prefix mal- and generalised it completely. And thus the Esperanto prefix mal- has absolutely no pejorative connotations, it marks the antonym and only that (mala means “opposite [adj]”, malo means “antonym, opposite [n]”).
And why not something else? Well, maybe he liked the sound of it? Maybe it was unique and clear enough that he deemed it to be a good choice? Maybe he thought of it as a good compromise between the Romance languages (where it means “bad”) and the Slavic languages (where it means “small”)?
Your translation is incorrect, because “malbela” means ‘ugly, not pretty’. Instead, you have written ‘bad, not good’ which would be “malbona”.
Additionally, the English ‘child’ is quite a general one, more or less the same as is “infano” in Esperanto. The word “bebo”, however, means a very young child, so the English ‘baby’ is expected instead.