Even before I had my own daughter I disliked the word “kid”, considering it to be far too disrespectful and degrading for children. My disdain for the use of the word multiplied tenfold when I became a mother and refused to have my child referred to as a baby goat, because that is the official definition of kid. The dictionaries will point out that kid is slang for child in the English language, but officially it is and will always be a baby goat.
Etymologically speaking, the word “kid” has its roots in the old Germanic and Norse languages, specifically the word Kith. First appearing in 1200 AC, the Norse word kiô and Proto-Germanic kidjom both referred to the offspring of goats. It later filtered into German as the word kitze, which included the young dear, goats and chamois.
The first reference of the word kid to children appeared in the 16th century slang, describing unruly children who behaved like little goats and could not sit still in polite company. It then became the common slang for young miscreants, thieves, and whatever you associate with the images conjured up by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist.
From the 1850s onwards, the use of kid became more widespread but still with the negative connotation associated with a certain level of vulgarity. It was not a term accepted in formal circles, at the turn of the last century, and certainly not in any religious circles either.
It was only in the 1960s that kid became hip and modern, and it has been a downhill progression ever since. I belong to a very small circle of parents that absolutely refuses to call children kids, even though they do behave like young goats! Children are children, and not young goats! If you insist on calling children kids, stop and think for a moment, what does that make you? Well yes, a mother (nanny) or father (billy) goat! Not a very flattering image is it?
I have never referred to my daughter as my kid, not that she has ever noticed, and if that makes me stand out like a sore thumb and be considered conservative, so be it. But I will not, absolutely not call my daughter a frolicking baby goat!
Recently I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a campaign here in the Philippines to “give children back their own identity” by encouraging parents to stop referring to their children as young goats. I found this 2015 feature article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer both amusing and most interesting. In the same manner, an older article by Marian T. Horvat dated 2008 also brings the point home.
I am indeed a self-confessed language purist and the ultimate terminology snob, and my hair stands up in horror each time I see the word kid be adopted in other languages without any consideration of the actual meaning and what that does to children’s self-esteem and accepted behaviour in the long-run. It ruins social norms and etiquette, making goat-like behaviour perfectly acceptable. Worst of all is when teachers, who should know better, use kid or kids to refer to their students.
For once, kid is not one of those words that got lost in translation when crossing the Atlantic ocean into the New World like Father Christmas or Sinterklaas. Kid is not derived from the German Kind (child), which would probably make it somewhat understandable. I blame the media and advertising agencies for irresponsibly using kid over the years to the point that society has deemed it perfectly acceptable to interchange the words without any remorse. It is wrong! Let children be children and not be raised in the image of unruly goats.