Baby's an It (call of the obstetrician?)

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Tue Sep 9 14:15:24 UTC 2008

This discussion reminds me of the time I realized that asking a parent the name of his/her baby could risk a social gaffe. If you say "What's his name?" and the baby turns out to be a girl, the parent could be offended that his/her beautiful , feminine baby could be mistaken for a boy. (Mutuatis mutandis for a baby boy).  If you ask, "What's its name?", that's even worse.  The reaction, even if not articulated, could be: "My beautiful baby is being called an 'it'?!!"
You could of course simply ask, "What's the baby's name?", although on a subtle level that reveals you don't know really know the gender.
I found a better way.  I'd look directly at the baby in the carriage and say cheerfully: "Hi, baby! What's your name?"  The parent would then proudly furnish the name, and in almost all instances that let me know the gender.
G. Cohen

The American Dialect Society -

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