Christine Lovatt

Some parents or grandparents call their children lambs, or chickens – affectionate and loving terms. Many of us call our children kids.

Kid comes from a very old Norse word for a baby goat. The word has been borrowed and applied affectionately to small children for centuries, maybe because baby goats are so cute, like baby humans. It was being used as a common term of endearment for a child way back in the 1590s, when it was deemed slang.

In those distant days when I was young, the use of ‘kids’ was not entirely approved of. However, the English language is a living entity, that changes constantly. In this case, ‘kids’ has become far more acceptable and our Oxford and Collins dictionaries no longer deem it to be slang, just ‘informal’. It has almost become another word for ‘child’. The word kidnap was being used in the 1680s, from kid ‘child’ and nap ‘snatch away’. The meaning of kid as ‘tease playfully’ was used in 1839.

Goats were the earliest animals domesticated by humans, so our distant forefathers would have had a long cultural history of terms connected with goats. Nanny goats and billy goats are named after humans, so who knows – maybe baby goats were named after baby humans?
goat_greyThere are many expressions using ‘kid’.
Here’s looking at you, kid.
New kid on the block.
No kidding!

The word seems to be well-entrenched in our culture. ABC television has no
qualms about using ‘kids’ to describe children: “Now the biggest stars of our show are always the kids that invite us into their lives each week”. There are hospital departments called ‘Special Kids’, museum and exhibition signs such as, ‘Kids under 12 enter free’ and book titles such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The revered writer C S Lewis in the early 50s wrote the fantasy novel Prince Caspian, in which the Prince is asked by Aslan the lion if he feels himself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia. “I don’t think I do, Sir” said Caspian. “I am only a kid”.

One of our long-term puzzlers feels that we are putting children down by referring to them as kids. She writes: “Mankind may be a lot better off if people respected their children more, in lieu of putting them down by calling and referring to them as KIDS. I would be interested to hear what other puzzlers feel about this. Do you think we disrespect children by calling them kids?

Happy Puzzling!