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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/ 3/2008

Comment Box: A Baby Bump Debate

By Liz Kelly

When did the hideous term "baby bump" become common to describe the state of pregnancy? I don't remember ever hearing it or reading it five years ago and it is now everywhere. I am just curious if you or other posters feel the same way. Personally, I would rather return to the days of describing a starlet as being "in the family way." -- Submitted during last week's Celebritology Live discussion

Good question. Like Simon Cowell or Britney's crazy, it just feels like it's always been around. But one need only look at the ghosts of tabloids past to discover that "baby bump" is a new-millennial spin.

Angelina Jolie, complete with newly-revealed baby bump, and Brad Pitt at the Spirit Awards. (Getty Images)

The term was most recently used (here in Celebritology and basically everywhere) to describe Angelina Jolie's bulging midriff. Though she and partner Brad Pitt haven't officially admitted that they'll be welcoming a new kid (or two) to their growing brood, there is no doubt: this (see pic at right), my friends, is a baby bump.

But where did the term originate? Though Celebritology editor Nancy Kerr credits tabloid queen Bonnie Fuller with first using the term in Us Weekly, I'm finding no help from either Google or a LexisNexis search. So, I asked an expert: Celebrity Baby Blog publisher and president Danielle Friedland. Here's what she had to say:

"The term appears to be British in origin and was in use, though not as much, over four years ago when I created the site (the first on the subject, btw). Now it's used in conjunction with other similarly annoying terms like bump watch or womb watch. I never cared for the term myself (so we try to use it minimally at CBB) as I find it cutesy, obnoxious and juvenile. I complained about the term four years ago here.
"Aside from 'belly,' there's no other colloquial term to uniquely describe the outward physical anatomy of the pregnant womb so 'bump' has become the word everyone uses. Part of its popularity stems from its descriptiveness -- a showing pregnant belly is round and appears to emerge from the abdomen differently than just a full stomach -- but also because we are squeamish about describing human female anatomy correctly ... If you want to get technical, uterus or womb would be completely accurate but uterus watch or expanding uterus just doesn't have the same alliterative catchiness of baby bump."

In case you needed another reason to find the term objectionable, one Yahoo! commenter opined recently about her notion that "baby bump's" inherent cutesy-ness may actually encourage teen pregnancy by reducing the protruding pregnant belly to an accessory.

Okay. Unlike you, and that commenter and Friedland (who is an expert and so probably in the right), I kind of like "baby bump." It's fun (unlike the snoozy "expecting"), doesn't carry any baggage (like the loaded "in the family way"), doesn't rhyme with a processed breakfast food ("preggo") and is -- to a girl who styles her writing for a site that can be a little squeamish -- refreshingly non-graphic. It literally makes a molehill out of a potential mountain of landmines.

The one use I will object to: The inevitable Fergie Ferg is with kid headline: Fergie's Lovely Baby Bump.


D.C. all the way: Forgot to ask this. Will you listen to Scarlett Johansson's CD so I don't have to and give it a review? I was hoping since you were so kind in alerting us to Gene Simmons sex video. -- Submitted during last week's Celebritology Live discussion

Well, okay. But I need some time to recover from the Simmons thing. Johannson's album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," -- a collection of Tom Waits covers -- is expected to be released on May 20.


Comment of the Week
"I doubt Mary Kate Ols[e]n could even lift a coffee table book, much less write one." -- Grimm comments on the Olsen twins upcoming book, "Influence."

By Liz Kelly  | March 3, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Comment Box  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Mix: J.Lo Announces Twins' Names
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I was born way back in 1961 and the women in the neighborhood I grew up in called it a baby bump as early as the late 1960's.

Posted by: DW | March 3, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

i dislike the term 'baby bump'. it sounds so cutesy and, honestly, there's nothing cutesy about being pregnant. i didn't feel cute, i didn't look cute. and i don't think pregnant women look cute. they look womanly. they look curvy. they look uncomfortable sometimes.

i thought grimm's comment about the olson's inablity to lift a coffee table book was brilliant and so add my kudos to liz's recognition.

Posted by: methinks | March 3, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Claire Hoffman has an essay on the "On Faith" section of the website re: Oprah and "The New Earth."
After reading it, Oprah is starting to scare me.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Totally dislike baby bump, and I trace it back to when Us Weekly went from being a relatively normal alternative to People magazine to the rag that it is now. And geez, people, it's no harder to say "pregnant" and it's the same number of letters.

P.S. Oprah is starting to scare me too. Is it weird that I love the concept and philanthropy (even with the product placement) of Extreme Makeover Home Edition but found Oprah's "The Big Give" self-important and manipulative?

Posted by: 23112 | March 3, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I was freakin' adorable when I was pregnant! That said, there's nothing wrong with the word pregnant to describe a woman with a fetus all up in there. Baby bump is a nice, safe phrase to use when tabloids are speculating as to what's going on with somebody's abdomen without risking a lawsuit. I'm sure we'll keep seeing it for that reason.

Posted by: other liz | March 3, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I have European friends who have used the term for years (one's last pregnancy was eight years ago so it's been a while). Still not sure how I feel, but if you pronounce it with a cute accent, it's almost tolerable. Though some of those bumps are pretty big.

Posted by: B'more | March 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I always thought they used Baby Bump exactly because it's less loaded than pregnant and makes it ok for magazines to scrutinize pictures of stars' bellies and ask, "Big, undigested lunch or fetus?" because that question dolevtails so perfectly with the phrase. Kind of a gross way to put it, but that's what they do!

Posted by: Sigh | March 3, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Oh, hmm. Didn't see that others made that same point - stupid refresh. Sorry!

Posted by: Sigh | March 3, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Regardless of how it sounds, you've got to give Scarlett some cool bonus points for choosing to cover Tom Waits tunes.

Posted by: musicgeek | March 3, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I like baby bump, just for the alliteration. It is way better than "Knocked up" or Preggo's cousin -- "Preggers". Both Preggo & Preggers make me think of a big bowl of spaghetti. I have no idea why women who are expecting a baby actually say "I'm preggers." Barf.

Is anything wrong with the old fashioned term "expecting"? When I told people our news, I said "We're expecting a baby." I think we might have been the only people in this century to still use "expecting."

Posted by: glebe | March 3, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Although I don't use the term often, I find that I use the word "preggers" more than anything else.
I don't think I would say "I am preggers", but I tend to use it when talking about friends.
Why not just say, "I am pregnant"?

Posted by: Ohyouknow | March 3, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

While it may not be the perfect descriptive term, baby bump is more polite and certainly less offensive than "knocked up," "preggers," "bun in the oven," "smuggling a melon," "on stork watch," or "doin' the penguin waddle."

Posted by: MisterBear | March 3, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Ohyouknow -- I love when people say "I'm pregnant." I hate when people say "we're pregnant." But tabs can't say any of that without confirmation, unless they want to get sued.
Me, I said "that stinker I live with went and knocked me up AGAIN" ....

Posted by: ol | March 3, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I currently have a baby bump and hate when someone refers to it in that way. Then again, I also hate the phrase "lovely lady lumps." The two go hand in hand IMHO.

Posted by: surlychick | March 3, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

well, the on hold recording for the management office at my apartment advertises as whether you're "in the family way" to say essentially if you're in dc for business or you have a family this is a good place to live.

i disagree, it implies that they are morons!

Posted by: ami | March 3, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't like baby bump. I think it's a little insulting. Maybe because I have a not so flat belly and I'm not pregnant.

Or maybe because there is nothing in the world wrong with saying "I'm pregnant".

The baby is not a 'bump'. it's a BABY!

Posted by: SF | March 3, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Remember the Chris Klein got Katie Holmes pregnant story from a couple months back? I never believed it b/c the source said that Chris had told him that he got Katie "preggers". I mean really, who says that?

Posted by: no name | March 3, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I always thought that the "baby bump" was a filmmaking term for the prosthetic belly actresses wear when portraying a pregnant character. But I'm not sure why I thought that!

I'm with those who would rather hear the phrase "baby bump" than "preggers." I'm also no fan of the use of the word "hubby," while we're on the subject of word choice pet peeves...

Posted by: oregonchick | March 3, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I think we're all overlooking the most important issue here: does a baby bump begin at conception, or does it begin when a tabloid reporter or the paparrazzi notice it?

Discuss. (For more fun, ask this question in On Faith, then sit back and watch the fireworks.)

Posted by: byoolin | March 3, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I remember when Diana was pregant with Prince Harry, one dress she was wearing was described as having "a bow right over the royal bump."

I hate baby bump too. I prefer flat out speculating "Is she pregnant or not?" Of course, with the wondering if they ate lunch or are pregnant, "bun in the oven" takes on a whole new meaning.

Posted by: ep | March 3, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't care less whether the tabs use the terms baby bump, prego, preggers, etc. but I am intrigued by byoolin's query as it raises all sorts of moral, as well as, visual issues.

Posted by: still | March 3, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I like baby bump as a term in early pregnancy when it is a cute, little, unsexed fetus that just bumps out of the usual belly landscaping. When one is 6+ months along I'm no longer a fan of referring to it as a baby bump as it is certainly more than a mere bump.

Posted by: PGM | March 3, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

While certainly overused these days, baby bump is a nice term. I heard it a lot when I was pregnant, and certainly never minded. It's simply a synonym for belly, in the pregnant sense. "Let's see that bump" one's aunt might say. Or, "the bump is getting bigger", as the wording on my shower invite went.

Preggo, preggers, (and hubby, fabu, delish) all grate on my nerves.

Posted by: WDC | March 3, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I think "baby bump" is completely appropriate for celebrity/tabloid/magazine use. After all, it is generally used as a speculative term for the most part anyway. But the concept that "baby bump" is a cutesy term that will encourage teenage pregnancy is totally ridiculous. If that's listed as a cause for a rise in teenage pregnancy, then our society has much bigger problems then what are the best and various terms to refer to a woman who is pregnant.

Posted by: J | March 3, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

ol @ 12:14pm, that is what I said too!

Posted by: e2h | March 3, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

i want to know if surlychick became surly before she had a 'baby bump' or after, when she realized she was going to be labeled as having a 'baby bump'.
mazel tov, by the way.

Posted by: methinks | March 3, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

While "baby bump" is not nearly as obnoxious as "preggers", I do think the term trivializes the pain and the beauty of pregnancy.

Maybe I'm po'd by the term because as I enter my 3rd trimester, my little one certainly isn't just confined to being a "bump" in my belly- she seems to be all over the place including my butt.

Posted by: plamar1031 | March 3, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

two regular posters (plamar, surlychick) who are sporting baby bumps or are just plain pregnant? anyone else?

Posted by: methinks | March 3, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Can't we just say "pregnant"? Sheesh. "Baby bump" is infantile.

Pun intended.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | March 3, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Ditto with the earlier poster, "we're pregnant" is uncomfortable phrasing. When a husband says "we're pregnant" I just think - "so you got to keep the uterus AND the man jewels? What a greedy little monkey you are!" "We" can expect a baby, but usually only one person is pregnant in a relationship. Unless it's a lesbian co-pregnancy, then I guess its cool.

Posted by: Omaha | March 3, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I hate the term. And Angelina Jolie is just plain really pregnant. I guess I think that's nice. I, for one, never thought she and Pitt would last.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how, as some have suggested, "baby bump" is less loaded than "pregnant" and therefore less likely to get a publication sued. Um, the only way to have a baby bump (as opposed to a big belly, or a pooch, or whatever other euphemism you can think of) is to be pregnant. Otherwise it's just a bump.

I'm not a fan of euphemism, but a term I prefer to "baby bump" (and one that I think fits the way "bb" is used better than "pregnant") is "showing." That is, instead of "Oooh, look, we finally saw Angelina's baby bump," it would be "Ooooh, look, Angelina's showing/starting to show. Looks like those pregnancy rumors were true after all." That is, of course, if for some reason a publication doesn't want to flat out say someone is definitely pregnant.

Posted by: SatchelFan | March 3, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

i've always liked the irish saying: she's up the pole. i know it sounds awfuly insensative and snarky, but i just love it for some odd reason. i don't think i would say it to any of my pregnant friends or if i ever get pregnant i don't think i would annouce: i'm up the pole! but to say angie is up the pole is pretty safe i think.

Posted by: melissamac1 | March 3, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I work with a guy, who when expecting his first child would say "we're pregnant", even though I explained that it was biologicially impossible for him and his wife to be pregnant at the same time, he insisted on the whole "we're pregnant" thing. So when he announced they were expecting the second time, it was "Kim's pregnant", I asked what happened to the "we", apparently his wife set him straight as to who was actually pregnant.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

yeah, who's "we" paleface?
just one round of pushing and 'we' found who was really pregnant. and i didn't even push that long.

Posted by: methinks | March 3, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The only thing I hate more than 'we're pregnant" is the saying "she is having his child." Excuse me, while only one is pregnant, it is THEIR child. Both parties contributed genes. It is not just "his."

Posted by: ep | March 3, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I didn't mind the term at the beginning of the discussion but now it's damn near as insufferable as EVOO!

Of course, once again the best comment of the discussion goes to byoolin

Posted by: jes | March 3, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

While we're on the subject of things that annoy us about dudes who've impregnated someone, let me add that it really bothers me when guys touch their baby mama's pregnant belly (or baby bump for those of you ok with this term) in public as if to shout to the world "hey, I did this."

Posted by: still | March 3, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure the Lovely Mrs. byoolin would not have minded the "we're pregnant" terminology if it meant her husband at the time would have picked up 50% of the hyperemesis she experienced for nine months.

(It was so bad that whenever she describes it I can't help but think of her as Mr. Creosote and her ex as the Maitre d' in "The Meaning Of Life.")

Posted by: byoolin | March 3, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

My husband never once said "we're pregnant." Instead, he said, "my wife scares me."
srsly -- I think the bump is for speculation. Once we know someone, say Angelina, is pregnant, do they still call it that? At that point it's a little out of hand.
And no, baby bump doesn't sound ambiguous to a tabloid consumer. But it works just fine for a judge.

Posted by: o.l. | March 3, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, I must say like many of you on here baby bump and preggers annoy the heck out of me too. I do applaud you all for managing to insert them into an intelligent conversation (don't see that too often).

Posted by: Andrea | March 3, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"words that annoy us for obvious and less-than-obvious reasons" sounds like an interesting Friday list to me. Any takers?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Oh for heaven's sake, what is wrong with "expecting a baby?"
Pregnant is sort of clinical (she's a cow!) and "baby bump" freaks me out (it would only be fair to talk about "man bumps" and that would be gross)
Personally, I looked like a barrel. There were no "bumps" except where my son used to stick his foot out, near my ribcage.
My husband and I gave him a pre-birth name, which we used privately. Otherwise he was "the baby" to everyone else, not "the Bump."

Posted by: possum | March 3, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Guessing the use of the term also coincided with the (very welcome) change of preggie-fashion ethos away from "let's wear the kitchen curtains to hide all of that, ahem, evidence that I've been doing the horizontal tango." Now there's a bump to see!

Posted by: thank you Liz Lange | March 3, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

What makes me giggle is the terminology used by members of pregnancy (and trying to conceive) forums to dance around the clinical and/or graphic descriptions of acts. Baby dancing, anyone?

Posted by: 23112 | March 3, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I have a four month old and while I was regnant wote a shirt that said "baby bump" I also had one that read Irish inside with a circle of shamrocks. I thought it was cute.

Posted by: Irishgirl | March 3, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm with "thank you Liz Lange" on that one.
I was totally puzzled the whole time I was expecting a baby, sporting a bump, up the pole, whatever, by how many people were grossed out by pregnancy. At least it was good practice for the war on nursing that was going on. Hoo boy! I wasn't really public or obvious about it, but I did have a woman come up to me in a bathroom where I was hiding to nurse my daughter and tell me that "they were going to make it illegal." I smiled and thanked her, thinking she was referring to the then-pending law to force establishments to allow women to nurse discreetly somewhere besides the can. Then she corrected me: no, they're going to outlaw breastfeeding. It kills babies. Zowie!

Posted by: ol | March 3, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"I have a four month old and while I was regnant wote a shirt that said "baby bump" I also had one that read Irish inside with a circle of shamrocks. I thought it was cute."

Typing with the "live bump" on your lap can make you mis-spell words.

Posted by: Irishgirl | March 3, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

no one uses "breeder".... ?

Posted by: hmmm | March 3, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

regnant is a synonym for ruling or reigning.
Ladies and gentleman, (especially gentlemen, if you know what's good for you) we have a winner! "Regnant" -- the new euphemism for knocked up!

Posted by: other liz | March 3, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

no one uses "breeder".... ?

Only you dad when he refers to your mom.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"We" can expect a baby, but usually only one person is pregnant in a relationship. Unless it's a lesbian co-pregnancy, then I guess its cool."

There's still only one partner who is technically pregnant so the whole "*we* are pregnant' thing is a no-go for both straight & gay couples.

Posted by: methinks | March 3, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I went to that On Faith column after the Oprah comment. Yikes. Byoolin is once again the master evil genius by suggesting the bump-at-conception comment. Those people are whacked. They could probably ineptly discuss that in capital letters for weeks.

Posted by: LLL | March 3, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Liz, for bringing this up. I agree that "baby bump" infantilizes women. I think it also trivializes sex. Tabloids love to speculate about folks' sex lives, but when confronted with the physical evidence that a woman has actually had sex here in the real world, they get all coy with this "baby bump" nonsense. It doesn't make sense to be so intrusive on one hand and use these dumb euphemisms on the other.

Posted by: JanetK | March 3, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

OMG! I got comment of the week! That is great. Thanks Liz Kelly.

Posted by: Grimm | March 3, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"We" can expect a baby, but usually only one person is pregnant in a relationship. Unless it's a lesbian co-pregnancy, then I guess its cool."

There's still only one partner who is technically pregnant so the whole "*we* are pregnant' thing is a no-go for both straight & gay couples.

I think the poster of the original comment meant if both women in the lesbian couple were pregnant; so yes, then they can safely say "we" are pregnant.

Posted by: expatasia | March 3, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

By "co-pregnancy" I meant two women pregnant at the same time, methinks. You know, in case a couple wanted TWO cases of morning sickness at the same time. Something fun like that.

Posted by: Omaha | March 3, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

expatasia - did NOT see your post before replied. Thanks, that is what I meant.

Posted by: Omaha | March 3, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

"Can't we just say "pregnant"? Sheesh. "Baby bump" is infantile."

Ditto (and funny). I'm pregnant now and I hate it when people say baby bump. I've always disliked the term.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"baby bump" annoys me, but much less so than when an expectant father says, "we're pregnant." NO. YOU are not pregnant. SHE is. You are not carrying a baby. Stop it!

Posted by: td | March 3, 2008 9:52 PM | Report abuse

LOL methinks! Thanks.

Having to hear about my "baby bump" on a regular basis just makes me even surlier ;-)

Posted by: surlychick | March 4, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

You're welcome, Omaha. Greetings from Singapore everybody...your voices are being heard far and wide!

Posted by: expatasia | March 4, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

We have become obsessed with celebrity bodies and celebrity pregnancies, and thus "baby bump" has entered our vocabulary. It perfectly describes the rounded belly of a mother-to-be.

The tabloid press in particular seems to focus on baby bumps, even showing series of photos of the celebrity mom's bump getting bigger and bigger. It's a sign of our celebrity-obsessed culture.

It's also titillating in the sense of celebrity sex--especially if the dad-to-be is also a celeb.

Posted by: Patty | March 4, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

There was a study last year (I think there was a chat about it on WaPo?) that showed that men can experience physical changes when their partner is pregnant. So maybe "we're pregnant" isn't so inaccurate.

Posted by: julia | March 4, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I prefer "bun in the oven" or "ripe with loin fruit" over "baby bump." I'd especially like to see the latter in Us Weekly:

"Angelina, ripe with loin fruit, makes her début on the red carpet in a stunning Versace dress..."

Posted by: byoo ling | March 5, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Why does Jolie most always wear keep-away-from-me black? She looks washed out most of the time.

Posted by: Steamboater | March 6, 2008 2:17 AM | Report abuse


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