"baby mama" does not mean what they thought it means

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Apr 29 01:58:20 UTC 2008

Furthermore, isn't every mama a "baby mama" by the literal definition the editors originally used?

  Especially mamas who are themselves babies.


Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Mark Mandel
Subject: "baby mama" does not mean what they thought it means

from my nephew, an exchange with an editor (or something) at MSNBC.COM:


Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 9:08 AM
To: Jonel Aleccia
Subject: poor choice of headlines?

"Baby mamas who eat better deliver more boys" (from

While I understand that blogs provide a less formal forum for writers,
this headline (or sub-head?) is from what appears to be a regular
article appearing in msnbc.com's health section. That being said, I
must ask who chose this sub-head and why it was considered
appropriate? For one, slang, unless it is a direct part of the main
storyline, should rarely, if ever, be used in research reviews. And
second, this slang isn't even appropriate for the research in
question, as it (the slang) refers to single mothers who don't know
the identity of their baby's father. This review did not indicate
that this research focused on this demographic.

Can you provide any insight into this?



From: Jonel Aleccia [mailto:JoNel.Aleccia at msnbc.com]


Thanks for your note. While the reporters and editors here disagree
with your idea that slang shouldn't be used in connection with a
research report, we were convinced to change the sub-head by your
argument that it refers to single mothers. After checking, we find
you're right. Thanks for taking the time to point that out.


JoNel Aleccia


My nephew comments: "Score one for the literate among us…"

While there's disagreement over its stylistic appropriateness, and
he's somewhat off on the definition of the term*, he was right about
its semantic appropriateness.

* "the mother of a man's child, who is not his wife nor (in most
cases) his current or exclusive partner" -- OED; also quoted in

Mark Mandel

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