Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Precisely Pregnant

* My disclaimer:  if, dear reader, the following post applies to you, please bear with me as I am somewhat of a grammar martinet. What I am suggesting is that the fault may lie more with me and less with you.  Please understand that I love you and have not judged character based on the following.  Therefore, at the risk of being less popular than I already am, I proceed.

I have never been one for euphemisms.  I like words, so I see no need to pad the actual meaning of something with a softer, less-precise substitution.  I like the power of words, therefore,  I even have a hard time with phrases like "passed away."  "Passed away"  is so vague, so transitory sounding.  At the risk of seeming insensitive, I prefer the precision of "died."  You know, the Wallace Steven's "Emporer of Ice-cream"  approach?  "Let the lamp affix its beam. . ."   What is IS and really no words can soften the blow or change the facts, so why not say it as it is?  I feel that my preference is a practical one and helps facilitate clear communication (however, I am also one who feels that the rules of proper grammar are for disambiguation and not solely to inflict torture on composition students. That's just an added bonus.)

There was once a time when the public at large felt that "pregnancy"  was too strong a term.  It was just so suggestive, so adult and thus, all of the euphemisms for pregnancy came to be. Proper women were not "pregnant," they were "PG" or "expecting" or "in a family way"  and babies were either found in the cabbage patch or delivered by the stork.  It's funny that people were ever squemish discussing what is not only natural and obvious, but also essential to the propogation of the human race. So, why the taboo?  

Thankfully, it seems we have gotten over ourselves and are no longer embarrassed to admit that humans reproduce sexually, however, the euphemisms still exist.  With the advent of political correctness, the world, post-feminist movement, still resorts to the old euphemisms with their old puritanical undertones, but has given them a new face.  Why else do modern day couples announce the forth-coming members of their families with the phrase, "we're pregnant?"  

The declaration of  "we're pregnant" baffles me.  It is impossible that both a woman and her husband are pregnant.  As much as I would love to share child bearing duties with my husband, such will never be.  "We're pregnant" is biologically an incorrect phrase therefore, it is also grammatically incorrect (in the same sense that it is grammatically incorrect to say that a person is "quite pregnant" or "quite dead."  Either s/he is or is not.  It is not correct to state absolutes in qualified ways.)

I also find that the phrase diminishes my (the woman's) role in pregnancy.  I am the one who deserves the credit for carrying the child for 40 weeks, therefore, I get to claim pregnancy status for myself.  I get to be the one who can, unabashedly, look a person in the eye and say, "I am pregnant."  What is so hard about that for a married woman who has obviously procreated on 3 previous occassions?

I agree that in the age of paternal ambiguities, it is nice to acknowledge my husband for his small though crucial role in the conception and his vital and ongoing role as father, so I might add something to the effect of, "and my husband and I are very excited to be expecting our fourth." However, until the day Brett dons pants bearing a tag illuminated with the words " adjustable maternity panel," I reserve the honor of being pregnant for myself.


mim said...

You are a hoot! I love it.

Carroll said...

I like it! Well written! It also makes sense.

Crista said...

I also find that the phrase diminishes my (the woman's) role in pregnancy. I am the one who deserves the credit for carrying the child for 40 weeks, therefore, I get to claim the pregnancy status for myself. I get to be the one who can, unabashedly, look a person in the eye and say, "I am pregnant."

I quote you on this.
I am 32 weeks pregnant and yes I love to say the words " Im pregnant" I think as we women grown up and have children we earn the right to say what we want while growing a child inside of us for so long.It must be the fact that "Guys" not the sound judgemental,sometimes don't know how we feel when we are huge!

Chris said...

Never heard PG as a euphemism before. Clearly I've been hanging with the wrong crowds.

In any case, three cheers for linguistic precision. The "we're pregnant" thing has always bothered me as well.

CarpElgin said...

I don't mind the use of "we" as long as it's used in the royal sense and said with enough haughtiness to convey it.

Using it in the "me and my hubby" sense makes me want to retch. The same for most "cute" pregnancy euphemisms, although I was quite pleased to hear my sister told my parents she was "great with child."

You can't completely discount the need for euphemisms as well as the sheer fun! I've been using "expletive" as my swear word of choice in "mixed company."

(Would I be better off saying "People I like and respect, but who are so *$%@^# good that I'd feel wrong using profanity in their company?")

Marie said...

I concede. Euphemisms do have their place, but they had better be so witty or literary that they can hold their own.

Who counts as "mixed company?"

And I do use "darn" because it is darn funny.

Persnickety Ticker said...

For you to not only pop by my blog and drop words like anthropomorphized and inexplicable in my comments, and then lead me here to your wonderful blog where you reference my favorite poem of all time?

I think I love you. Or at least am in awe of you a little.

Big words make me giddy. I can't help it. I'm not weird, I promise. Well, maybe a little.

Anyway, thanks for stalking me, and I hope you don't mind me stalking you right back! I am off to read the rest of your wonderful insights!

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Thank you and welcome! I thought we might be kindred spirits because I noticed you frequent many of my favorite blogs. Then I read your post about creamer/Mickey Mouse and it made me happy.

I hope you enjoy your perusal and I am with you 100% about big words, obviously.

kristina said...

I really enjoyed your post.
I hate the phrase "we're pregnant."
I mentioned this in an online group, and that the phrase was incorrect.
I received a snarky retort stating, it was an annoying phrase, but not incorrect.

So I replied: "I would still submit that it is poor grammar as it is the improper use of the pronoun/adjective “we.”
“We’re pregnant” is perfectly fine if you are a woman and you are standing with at least one other woman and you both are pregnant. 
If you are a man and you’re standing there with the woman you impregnated , the proper response is “she’s pregnant ” or, if you are the woman, ”I’m pregnant”.

This was the response I received:
"That is a lexical issue, not a grammatical or syntactic one. You’re arguing that the adjective is the wrong one to use with a “we” that includes a male; that’s a lexical difference. “We are pregnant” would be lexically as well as grammatically and syntactically correct if “we” referred to two women.
Colloquial or ironic expressions are often grammatically or syntactically correct, but this particular one isn’t."

I still disagree with her because I don't see how it could be correct to use the the expression "we're" to attribute the state of pregnancy to a man and a woman because its impossible. So I don't see how her "lexical" argument holds water.

I would love to hear of your view on my opponents argument.

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