Sunday, 4 December 2011

When did we give up the definite article?

Pause for breath...

And rant.

What's wrong with the definite article? Those three little letters. You know the ones, you use them every day, hundreds of time, without thinking.


So what is it about having children that makes them disappear? And from the one word that everyone's using?


Let's listen to baby.
See, there's baby
Shall we change baby?
How's baby's weight?

No. No. No.  The baby.  Your baby.  My baby.  Not baby.

But I stay calm and I don't scream. Because when you're pregnant or have just had a baby everyone thinks you're hormonal and there's nothing worse than being mistaken for an oestrogen-fuelled lunatic when actually you're a grammar-loving pedant.


  1. Oooo Oooo Ooo I am SOOOO with you on this one. Actually I think I wrote a postcard about it when Sam was about T's age.

    Actually I just found it

    "Dear Health Professionals,

    My newborn is not called Baby. He is called Sam. So please stop saying things like 'Let's weigh Baby'. It is 'Let's weigh Sam' or 'Let's weigh the Baby' (see that use of the definite article there, not a difficult part of the English language really). The only time it is acceptable to talk about Baby is if you are Patrick Swayze, talking about a corner and you are actually in Dirty Dancing.

    Pedantic Pants."

    I am so pleased that it isn't just me who finds this intensely irritating. And irritating a new mother is NEVER a good idea!

  2. It was the summer of 1963, when everybody called my "Baby" and it didn't occur to me to mind. One of my fav movie lines of all time. Sorry not totally on point, but I feel your pain.

  3. Oh, I have always hated that too. I even hate when friends refer to their own as 'Baby' but I keep very quiet about it because everybody else seems to like it. Nice to know at last that I am not alone!

  4. Oh I remember that! The one that annoyed me most was the registrar when we registered the birth – she did it in this yucky sing-song voice as well!

  5. Oh dear, is Mum feeling a bit touchy? ;-)

    You know how much of a grammar nazi I am. I think the only thing that irritates me more than 'and how's Mum' (I don't know, I've not spoken to her today,and why would my Mum up north be of interest to you?) is the fact that my health visitor can neither count nor spell so C's red book looks a complete mess.

  6. I hate it, I really do. I have a name, my children have names, they were not Baby, I hate being her. Grrrrrrr

  7. Pants - You and me both - pedants ahoy! Actually the thing that really got me, and why I blogged about it now, is it's not just the new mother thing. In fact, this was raised by the nanny payroll people (yes, indeed, professional service providers) last week referring in an email to the lovely Carol as "Nanny" in the sentence "Nanny is responsible for reporting her own sick days". aaaaaaaaaaaargh!!! They have her name, address, NI number, date of birth and probably waist measurement. Why do they need to call her "nanny"??!

    AH - A good point, and well made. I've now got "the time of my life" on the brain, incidentally, so thanks for that!

    Fiona - really? None of my friends has (I think) ever done that but maybe they know me too well...! I suggest a judicious general gifting of some really dull and worthy grammar book with the appropriate page highlighted.

    Rhian - Why why why? I've actually never been to register a birth but that would have really got me too.

    Mrs T - ooh!!! You might have raised more hackles there there than an average copy of the Daily Mail (there's something that definitely doesn't deserve a definite article).

    Jen - Grrrr indeed.

  8. It always grates with me and I am always too polite to point it out. I decided years ago that I would only go to vets that use my dogs names because they gave the impression of caring. I have used the same rule of thumb with doctors!

  9. Ha ha - missed an apostrophe - hope I don't prompt a new rant! ;-)

  10. Oh yes, I hated that too - I found it intensely patronising. Wonder when it started?? Must be a fairly recent thing.

  11. Oh I loved this post so much but it has taken until now for me to come and comment. It was confusing for us because Piran called Kate 'Bubby' for the first six months. Now he has stopped and started calling her Kate and I can't get out of the habit!

    But yes. The Baby. Or Kate.

  12. Drives me crazy too! But I have found that Brits do this in many walks of life, like for instance, "let's go to hospital." Ta ta definite article.

  13. S - I will forgive you just this once!

    Jude - Do you think it's recent? I sort of imagine it is too, but then I also imagine that when we were born the midwives were calling our mothers "Mrs Smith" which also seems very odd...

    Kelly - There's a whole different post of course about what we actually call our children... I very rarely use the actual names we agonised over!

    Tanya - really really interesting. I'd never thought of that. Of course it's just "hospital"... why wouldn't it be?! But you're absolutely right of course. Why do we do that? And why do I think it's ok for hospital and not for baby...? Answers on a postcard.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...