Let’s not keep mum about jargon

A couple of weeks ago, Time magazine had on its cover a photo of a woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son. As a mum to a toddler, I’ve been watching the resulting media furore with interest.

One Guardian article quoted a mum as saying that her husband ‘practised baby-wearing’. This sounds rather alarming (especially if you’ve ever seen The Silence of the Lambs), but she just meant that her husband carried their baby in a sling instead of using a pushchair. An odd term for an ordinary thing.

Reading this made me realise that jargon isn’t confined to the business world. It’s seeping into our personal lives, too – right down to the way we raise our kids.

So, at the office your boss bamboozles you by telling you to ‘socialise’ an idea (tell people about it), or that your report is too ‘granular’ (goes into too much detail). Then you come home and read a book about ‘attachment parenting’ (keeping your baby close to you and responding to its cues), which recommends ‘co-sleeping’ (sharing a bed with your baby) and ‘baby-led weaning’ (letting your baby feed itself, instead of spoon-feeding it mush).

Now, I have no beef whatsoever with attachment parenting: I definitely have more in common with the lentil-weaving baby wearers than the more regimented Gina Ford types. But I do find this sort of vocabulary a bit icky. These are things people have been doing instinctively for generations – do they really need to have these fancy names?

Why our sudden collective inability to call a spade a spade? Maybe we’re trying to make the mundane details of life seem more exciting. Or maybe we just like to put ourselves in boxes, to feel like we belong to a particular tribe. Either way, I wish we could all just tell it like it is, whether it’s in the nursery or the boardroom.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and refresh my son’s disposable undergarments.   

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