A funny thing happens when you get pregnant (well, many funny things, but we’ll leave that for another time). Suddenly, even your most outspoken of friends and family are overcome with what I like to call euphemism-itis.
A funny thing happens when you get pregnant (well, many funny things, but we’ll leave that for another time). Suddenly, even your most outspoken of friends and family are overcome with what I like to call euphemism-itis. “Oh, are you planning on having a natural delivery?” they’ll sweetly ask, sometimes with an accompanying wink. Are you asking if I’m planning on forgoing all drugs? Or if I’m planning on pushing my baby out of my vagina? Both? Unfortunately, language goofs in pregnancy-land are rampant.
Now, luckily, I’m the sort of person who loves to talk about herself, so potentially invasive questions don’t really phase me, but what does seem odd to me is how many topics related to pregnancy are always addressed in a confusing or obfuscating manner.
To wit: Expecting? Knocked up? Or, my least favorite: bun in the oven? No, I’m pregnant. Which, in case you’re wondering, is derived from the Latin prae, meaning “before” and gnasci meaning “be born.” Pretty succinct and to the point, no? But, even this was considered taboo until the 1950s, which may be part of the reason why so many synonyms for this actual medical condition exist.
And some euphemisms have much more of a checkered past. Let’s have a look at “knocked up.” According to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (it’s a thing), the origins can be traced back to as early as the 1800s. And then there’s this lovely mention from 1836: the Oxford English Dictionary refers to slave women who are “knocked down by the auctioneer and knocked up by the purchaser.” Yikes. But, silver lining: see what reading the dictionary can teach you?
Pregnant women, though maybe we do waddle and eat weird things, are not, in fact, a different species. And, if we can handle cervix checks, we can handle straightforward questions about our bodies and the awkward missteps of friends and family and strangers on the street. I have breasts, a uterus and a vagina; at least half of you reading this do, too. Those are great words. Let’s use them.