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Do the words "child" and "kid" imply a paternity (or maternity) relationship, just like "son" or "daughter"?

  • If true, how can I refer to a child without implying paternity? Example: if Anne is a kindergarten teacher and I want to refer to the "children" in her class without implying maternity, would the expression "Anne's children" be ambiguous? What should I use instead?
  • If false, how can I refer to someone's son or daugther and imply young age (without using "young son" of course :) ) ?

I'd appreciate answers that cover different English uses, both by geographic area and by social/cultural implications.

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3 Answers 3

In the first case, if the listener/reader knows who Anne is and knows that she teaches kindergarten, then there shouldn't be any understanding problem. But if there might be, you'd just have to say something like "My friend Anne's kindergarten {kids / students [CHOOSE ONE]}...".

For the second case, you can always say "{infants / toddlers}" or {adolescent / pre-teenage(d) / teenage(d)} (depending on how young the the kid is) {son / daughter}. Or you can give the kid's age: "His 10-year-old son".

There's no reason to be cryptic when it's so easy to be clear.

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My problem is not about being cryptic or not: rather, I'd like to use an expression that does not have a strong implied meaning. –  Marco Leogrande Feb 3 '13 at 20:46
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@Marco: A problem with language is that connotation, ambiguous terms (multiple meanings), & homophony can make expression unclear. Some language is deliberately cryptic, some accidentally. I read a Japanese novel in which the protagonist spent 350 pages analyzing everything everyone said to him. The Japanese are famous for saying things indirectly, but this was extreme. My point was that there are ways of being clear, but they sometimes require more words. In Chinese, eg, one must add the word for "color" (色) after every color name to ensure understanding: too many homophones in Chinese. –  user21497 Feb 3 '13 at 23:42
    
I wasn't implying that you were being deliberately cryptic. However, I was implying that speakers and writers must be deliberately clear: that's often difficult because it often takes some thought. Most speakers/writers both understand what they're saying & assume that their listeners/readers will too, so they don't bother to think about whether they really will understand. –  user21497 Feb 3 '13 at 23:46

Children (and other associated words) has two main meanings.

  1. Human young who have not reached adulthood

  2. Human young with a direct biological relationship to a father and mother.

Context is everything. Any confusion over Anne's children is the same you might get with many other nouns. eg Anne's clothes. Does this mean the clothes Anne is wearing now? All of the clothes she owns? Or is Anne a designer/maker/seller of clothes?

You could say The children were walking down the street without needing any indication of who their parents were.

However, if Anne is aged 70 and you ask How many children has Anne got?, the question is still correct even though all the children will be adults , because she has a continuing maternal relationship with them.

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+1 for the apposite comparison with "Anne's clothes". –  FumbleFingers Feb 3 '13 at 21:36

"Daughter" and "son" will always connote a maternal or paternal relationship.

The relationship between "child" or "children" and maternity (or paternity) may only be determined from the context in which the words are used.

A "kid" is the young offspring of a goat. It is used in a colloquial way to refer to human children as well. When used in that manner, it is neither age, nor gender specific. "Kids" may be adult children or young children. It would be inappropriate to refer to a newborn or an infant as a kid. Referring to one's children as "my kids" is more common in some regions of the U.S.A. than others. "Kids" is used more often in certain educational settings than others e.g. by my mother when she was a public school teacher. I don't know how to generalize into consistently applicable guidelines for usage though.

The answers that were posted earlier are correct, and sensible. I would use "child", "daughter" or "son" rather than "kid". That will prevent any confusion regarding lineage.

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