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In the British show Call The Midwife, which is a show about midwifery, a lot of the dialogue is about babies. Whenever someone refers to a specific baby, they never use the definite article. So "That's not good for baby" rather than "That's not good for the baby". "I'll ask the doctor to listen to baby's heartbeat" rather than "I'll ask the doctor to listen to the baby's heartbeat". I notice they use the definitive article for everything else ("the doctor", "the children", "the hospital", "the midwife") but never for "baby".

What is the reasoning for this? Is this an archaic thing (the show is set in the 50's-60's), a British thing, a medical thing?

marked as duplicate by StoneyB, FumbleFingers, Lawrence, Hellion, tchrist Feb 21 '17 at 15:11

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  • Yeah, it's weird. I'm a native speaker (AmE), but I've only ever heard it in commercials for baby products. It's as though they're attempting to use the word 'baby' as a proper noun (as though it's the actual baby's name), but using a name as generic as possible. I still hear it used (in commercials) so I suppose it is 1) current, 2) not just British 3) not just medical. But it always sounds 'off' to me. – Mitch Feb 21 '17 at 14:03
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    It is simply a polite form, often where a person does not know the name of the child. E.g. a nurse or doctor might say "would you just put baby on the bed for me please". It seems preferable and more personalised than saying the baby. Including the definite article when referring to a specific infant in his or her presence seems to me to treat the child as an object. – WS2 Feb 21 '17 at 14:55
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I'm going to loosen my hand on Baby and let her body hang.

From the script for Episode 2.

They're just using "Baby" like "Mom" or "Sis" or "Dad" or "Bro." In the southern US, "Bubba" is another term for brother.

That's all it is. In other places in the script, they do say "the baby" or "your baby." With the null article, it's either in the context of babies in general or they're using it as a nickname/aptronym/term of endearment ("Baby").

  • "Aptronym" may not be the best word there. I can't recall the word for terms and names based on jobs/relationships. – miltonaut Feb 21 '17 at 14:16
  • This doesn't seem right. "I'm going to loosen my hand on brother and let his body hang" doesn't work. – Bas Feb 21 '17 at 16:24
  • @Bas It doesn't work because you didn't capitalize 'brother'. "I'm going to loosen my hand on Brother..." would function the same as "I'm going to loosen my hand on Dad..." or "I'm going to loosen my hand on Grandpa..." – miltonaut Feb 28 '17 at 11:05

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