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Baby talk:
New words and parenthood

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New word of the month
Baby talk:
New words and parenthood

by Kerry Maxwell

babyccino also babycino noun [C] /bebitin
a cup of milky froth topped with chocolate powder which is served to young children in coffee bars

'The staff in the members' cafe at Tate Modern are always accommodating, often making my elder daughter Georgia a 'babyccino' (cup of froth with choc powder on top) for no charge. They seem to have realised the fairly simple fact that happy kids means happy parents who stay longer and spend more.'
(The Guardian, 12th July 2003)

'It is just a cup of milky froth but the babycino has become one of the crucial factors in the battle to win the hearts of Sydney's coffee drinkers.'
(Sydney Morning Herald, 6th November 2005)

Anyone who used to frequently enjoy a quick trip to Starbucks® for a regular latte or cappuccino, but has had their coffee-drinking days severely hampered by their young off-spring, will appreciate the significance of a babyccino. Instead of your little one creating havoc under the table, or playing inappropriately with the sugar bowl, they can be quietly entertained with a teaspoon and a cup of milky froth, whilst Mum or Dad sip coffee and chat at a more leisurely pace, hopefully buying another cup or two. If this inspires you to stop for a coffee the next time you and your infants are in town, choose your coffee bar carefully – whilst some cafés are prepared to give babyccinos as a free coffee-drinking incentive to customers with kids, others may charge as much as a £1 or more.

Parenthood. It is such a major issue in the lives of so many people, that it needs to be talked about on a regular basis, and when it is talked about, new words and expressions form, especially as a result of changing attitudes to pregnancy and childcare.

At one end of the spectrum, there's the issue of becoming a parent in the first place. In this context, it seems to have taken us until the 21st century to find a word which describes an unspoken fear experienced by young women throughout the ages. In 2000, an article from the British Journal of Psychiatry introduced the term tokophobia (also spelt tocophobia) to describe the fear of childbirth, based on the Greek word for childbirth, tokos. Sufferers are described as tokophobic (tocophobic), and at their most extreme, fear the prospect of death whilst giving birth. Two types of tokophobia have been identified: primary tokophobia, which pre-dates pregnancy and can start as early as adolescence, and secondary tokophobia, which is associated with an earlier traumatic experience in childbirth.

Tokophobics and those of us who are just plain freaked out by the prospect of pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of motherhood, might think about hiring the services of a doula. This word, in fact coined in the early seventies by an American anthropologist called Dana Raphael, is now in mainstream use as a description of a non-medically-trained person who supports a woman in pregnancy, childbirth and the first few weeks of caring for a new baby. The term is based on the same word in Greek which literally means 'slave' or 'servant of God', and consequently sometimes carries rather negative connotations where its origins are understood.

If, unlike a tokophobic, you've really relished being pregnant and would like a memento of your uniquely changing shape, then maybe you should consider having a belly cast. Believe it or not, you can now buy plaster moulding kits specifically designed to be applied to a pregnant woman's belly before their new arrival in order to create a unique keepsake of the gestational period.

There are many other women who just want to forget the assault pregnancy has inflicted on their bodies and get back in shape as soon as possible. For those who aspire to the example of celebrity mothers like Victoria Beckham or Gwyneth Paltrow, and want to become a yummy mummy (a slim, gorgeous-looking mum), then there's always the option of strollerobics. A blend of stroller (the US word for a lightweight pushchair, often called a buggy in British English) and aerobics, this term was invented in California during the mid-nineties, and refers to an exercise routine for new mothers incorporating pushchairs. Mummy gets a workout, baby gets a ride!

By the way fellas, if you're feeling a little left out, the male equivalent of the yummy mummy has appeared. In the last couple of years people have also been talking about the yummy daddy, a fit and attractive dad typified by the likes of Hollywood actors such as Jude Law.

For many new parents, concerns about looking good have taken a back seat in their lives relative to the enormous impact of caring for a little one. New mums and dads whose babies are premature and haven't yet made it out of hospital, may these days hear about the concept of kangaroo care. This is a way of holding a premature newborn so that there is skin-to-skin contact, often by tucking the baby under its mother's clothing. The expression was inspired by the similar way a baby kangaroo is tucked inside its mother's pouch. Evidence suggests that kangaroo care can be very successful, causing premature babies to thrive and leave hospital earlier than conventionally expected.

Once baby comes home, life as we know it has changed for ever, and everything seems to revolve around sleeping and feeding. In terms of nourishment, 21st century women are strongly encouraged to breastfeed their babies, and the 1960s bottle-feeding revolution has been eclipsed by the philosophy that 'breast is best'. Those women who have problems with breastfeeding should beware of the lactivist. This word is a blend of lactation and activist used since the late nineties to refer to people who actively promote breastfeeding, sometimes through the distribution of t-shirts with slogans such as 'formula is for suckers' and 'mummy milk rocks'. Distracted breast- or bottle-fed babies can now be entertained by a nursing necklace, a string of colourful beads worn around mummy's neck that they can twiddle with their tiny fingers as they feed. Allegedly this helps them concentrate on the business of filling their little tummies rather than pulling their heads in the wrong direction. Lactivists are also likely to support the modern trend of co-sleeping, a practice in which babies and young children sleep in a bed with one or both parents. Co-sleeping can be controversial. Proponents argue that it promotes bonding, facilitates breast-feeding and, perhaps most importantly to anyone who knows what it's like to deal with a baby in the middle of the night, lets the parents get more sleep. Others argue that it is dangerous for the child and increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ironically also often referred to informally as cot/crib death.

Babies who have grown into toddlers might appreciate a bit of floortime (also floor time, floor-time). This is a special playtime that a parent sets aside for their child, where they engage in creative play that often involves getting down on the floor with their little one. Those parents with bad backs might find it easier to entertain their offspring by reading them some poop fiction, a literary genre that uses potty humour and other 'bodily functions' to appeal to young children. This expression is of course a play on pulp fiction, a term coined in the early 1950s to refer to literature dealing with lurid subjects (which was often printed on low-quality paper manufactured from wood pulp).

21st century parents who have to leave their children in the care of others now have the option of hiring the services of a manny. A playful blend of male and nanny, this is an expression which has emerged from a growing fashion for male childcarers, attributed partly to insecure mums who feel that hiring an attractive female nanny might be a threat to their marriages. Mannies are also favoured by the parents of boys, especially single mothers, who want a solid male influence which might drag their sons away from the TV or computer and onto the football pitch.

If the demands of your working life mean that you have no choice but to have your children looked after, watch out for the concept of nanny (or indeed manny) envy, a newly identified state of having envious feelings towards the person who takes care of your children and therefore spends more time with them than you do. Anxious parents might consider installing a nanny cam, a tiny video camera small enough to conceal inside a teddy bear, which can be used to spy on nanny or manny and check whether she or he is doing her or his job properly.

If all this talk of babies and parenthood sounds too much like hard work, you could think about getting a furkid, a cuddly pet on which you can lavish all your parenting impulses but which won't need changing, feeding or rocking to sleep in the middle of the night! Alternatively, you might be happiest alone, but if you're over thirty, beware of the grip of baby hunger (a strong desire to have a baby) as your biological clock starts to tick more loudly.


For more information about new and topical words and phrases, read Kerry's Word of the Week articles on the MED Resource Site.