Recently, my nine-year-old son had a friend round and as I was trying to get them to leave the TV behind and come to the park, I said, "Let's get going, kid." My son's friend, apparently insulted, said, "I'm not a baby goat."
I'd completely forgotten that some people have a problem with the word 'kid'. My parents always called my sister and me 'kid'. I think it was something they'd picked up when they lived in Canada and I always liked it - it feels affectionate to me - but it turns out lots of my friends really hate it.
Stella, mum to three boys, thinks it's ugly. "It feels a crude or brash way to refer to your children. Why say 'my kid' when you could say 'my son/daughter'?"
"I don't use the term 'kids'. I really dislike it," Helen says. "My children are children and therefore called children! I don't like shortening names or words."
Like my son's friend, lots of people trotted out the 'a kid is a baby goat' line, but so what? Plenty of pet names for children are animal names. Tiger, kitten, lamb, monkey. My friend Sarah says she'd never use 'kids' because they're children not animals, but she calls her young son and daughter 'the wombats'. When I pointed out that wombats are animals too (as, for that matter, are children), she argued that wombats sounds "cuddly." Well I think goats are cuddly. Particularly baby goats. But then I read Heidi at an impressionable age.
Caron, mum to Anna, agrees with me. "Baby goats are incredibly cute and 'kids' is an affectionate and inoffensive term. 'Children' sounds fine for formal writing but not for informal banter."
"I have no problem with using 'kids'," Alexandra says. "'The children' sounds faintly Victorian to me, but I most often call Ramona 'Stinky' or 'Pickleface' so maybe I'm not the best example..."
I like the informality of 'kids' (and 'Pickleface'!), but the informality is one of the things my friends have a problem with. Debs works in a school and they're not actually allowed to refer to the children as 'kids', only ever 'children.'George Kirk, mum to two boys, can understand why: "I actually think there is something a little demeaning about 'kids' - like you're establishing some kind of hierarchy. I tend to use 'guys'. It feels a little more like we are on a more equal footing somehow."
I do think part of the problem is the misconception that "kids" is an Americanism and people are snobbish about words they perceive to be Americanisms.
My friend Angela moved from Scotland to the US so I asked her if it's perceived differently there. She says, "'Kids' is by far the preferred term, certainly around here. I use it all the time and don't even think about it being a negative thing. The only time you would use the words 'child' or 'children' is when you're filling out a form."
Mum-of-three Tiffany who grew up in England, but now lives in America agrees: "It always seemed to be a derogatory term when I was growing up in the UK. Here in the US we use 'kids' a lot but then language here seems very much unrefined."
Despite being American, mum-of-three Lucy agrees that 'kids' is unrefined. She says, "I dislike the term 'kid(s)' immensely. My paternal grandmother abhorred the term and said it was something 'only lazy and uneducated people used.'"
But why should 'kids' be a word "only lazy and uneducated people use"? Neither an abbreviation nor slang, it dates from the 17th Century and is a perfectly valid word. Isn't it lazier to reject or make assumptions about a word when the facts don't actually support it?
Of course, no one should use it if they don't like it (for whatever reason), but isn't looking down on others for using it pretty crass too?
What do you think?
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