I originally published an earlier version of this article back in 2016, before moving to Berlin had even surfaced in the horizon. Four years later, I still stand by my conviction and will continue to campaign against the use of the word kid or kids in reference to children.
My daughter was born in 1998, and prior to that I was already very uncomfortable with 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 vehemently 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 deer, goats and chamois.
The first reference of the word kid to children appeared in the 16th century slang, describing unruly children behaving like little goats, completely lacking in restraint and were not deemed suitable to appear in polite company. It then became the colloquialism for young miscreants, thieves, and all other Dickensian characters 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 and uncouthness. 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, with the whole back-to-nature movements and espousing the wholistic nature of flora, fauna, and humanity – 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 some actually do behave like young goats and would have earned the right to be referred to as such! Nevertheless, children are children, human beings with heart and soul who deserve respect, affirmation and validation – and not to be demoted to 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? You might as well all start bellowing.
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 or pompous, so be it. But I will not, absolutely not call my daughter a frolicking young goat!
Much to my delight, I stumbled upon a campaign in the Philippines to “give children back their own identity” by encouraging parents to stop referring to their children as young goats. I found the 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 brought the point home.
I am indeed a self-confessed language purist and the ultimate terminology snob. 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. Here in Germany, for example, the word is widely used but ask the majority of German parents who are not fluent in English and they will not be able to tell you what the true definition of kid means.
The indiscriminate use of kid completely shatters social norms and etiquette, elevating the unruly goat-like behaviour perfectly acceptable. Unless your child bellows constantly, chews loudly on grass, trash and branches, batters doors and gates open with his or her head, and kicks backwards, no offspring of yours should be called kid. Parents who disregard the word or simply don’t care is one thing, but teachers, who should know better, refer to their students as kids, especially in non-native English speaking countries, I have a huge issue with it.
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! A child’s dignity and self-esteem begins at home, and the first step is the manner in which parents refer to them.