Using Nouns Properly.

Hello. I woke up today with my Language Pedant hat on. I am increasingly distressed by the use of common nouns being used as though they were proper ones. Examples:

“Oh, how is Baby today?” “Has Baby been changed?” “Baby’s getting bigger!” Baby is not the child’s name (except in Dirty Dancing, and I do believe Jennifer Gray was out of diapers at the time). If you don’t know the child’s name, ask. If you don’t know the gender, ask. But don’t call one unique individual by a general term. I would not ask, “How is Meddlesome Besom today?”, or “Isn’t Daft Old Woman Who Smells Of Pee looking well?”. Calling a child ‘Baby’ as though that is the child’s name is disrespectful to the parent and the child, and makes you sound like a dribbling moron in her dotage.

Don’t ask me how ‘Hubby” is. “Hubby” is no one’s name. It is a limp, cutesy attempt to manufacture a seeming closeness between the user of the term and the woman in question. Furthermore, “How’s Hubby?” is often asked with a kind of half-sly cosiness that, in my more cynical moments, I believe is an allusion to the fact that I am an adult woman who has sex with an adult man. At other times, I just think it is a nod and wink to the fact that I ‘caught a man’. Actually, both of those are pretty fucking cynical. Oh well. If you can’t remember E’s name, ask me. And don’t assume I am married, either. That’s right. I am HAVING SEX OUT OF WEDLOCK! I am also sharing cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping duties out of wedlock, but none of those make me a brazen whore, so I suppose they don’t count.

People, we have a rich and varied language. We have ways of being more specific than any other creatures on the planet. Let’s use those. Let’s keep the evolutionary advantage. Because if we don’t, we’re really only monkeys in pants.

Thank you for your time.

As you were.

12 Comments to “Using Nouns Properly.”

  1. By Pam, August 19, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

    Calling a kid “Baby” is done by The Authorities (incorrectly) to dodge reference to gender, and is otherwise done by people who can’t tell wtf gender the kid is.

    “Hubby” is a word I hate with a passion. I love how it appears in the Jean Teasdale column at The Onion:

  2. By Liz, August 20, 2007 @ 1:22 am

    Waaah! Hubby Rick is right on the money!

    Also, why wouldn’t The Authorities ask about gender? Is it so wrong to not know what sex an infant is, when it is not completely swaddled in pink?

  3. By cheesefairy, August 20, 2007 @ 5:49 am

    I noticed the “Baby” thing in my pre-baby reading. The older books also refer to the mother as “Mother,” furthering my theory that in the eyes of the general population we all become jelly lumps after we procreate so that we may fit more easily into the roles others make for us.

    So: good for you for holding out!

    To a lot of people (present company aside), knowing what sex a baby is is CRUCIAL. It comes back to roles. How can you make the appropriate tired, old remarks about how he’ll be a “ladykiller someday with those blue eyes” if you’re not sure he’s a boy. You wouldn’t want your little GIRL to be a ladykiller! Titter!

  4. By Liz, August 20, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    I’d totally forgotten about the ‘Mother’ thing. And I guess you’re right, Cheesefairy. Heaven forbid any commenter-upon-the-child should suggest that said child may grow up to be anything other than hetero-normative.

  5. By Arwen, August 20, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    Cheesefairy, you fucking cracked me up.

    This “OMG I accidentally called your baby a girl!” thing was such a freak-out for people that I would go to odd contortions not to use a pronoun if they’d incorrectly guessed Ripley’s sex.

    This is why I’ve become a way more committed feminist post Ripley; they start those gender lessons a’ rockin’ as soon as the babies can breathe. Drives me bat-shit.

  6. By Arwen, August 20, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

    I’m just going to swear a little more, hey? Fuuuck.

  7. By stephanie, August 20, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

    The word “hubby” gives me the hate shivers.

  8. By elswhere, August 21, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

    I’ve always hated the word “hubby.” It struck me as cutesy in the worst kind of icky way. But I figured maybe it was a heterosexual thing I would never understand. Now I feel vindicated!

  9. By Liz, August 21, 2007 @ 9:13 pm

    Okay, if so many of us hate ‘hubby’, why/how is it still used?

  10. By cheesefairy, August 22, 2007 @ 10:32 am

    The Normals.

  11. By Beth, August 22, 2007 @ 11:17 am

    And I hate “the wife”. As in, “How’s the wife?” But I suppose it’s better than “the old ball and chain”. No one uses that any more, right?

  12. By Liz, August 22, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    Oh. Normals. I hate ‘em.

    Beth, “The old ball and chain” is still used by the fragrant and rotund older gentlemen of BC’s fishing industry.

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