“Baby bump”

Graco has an "I Love My Baby Bump" Facebook page

I have to say I was gobsmacked when a reader suggested baby bump as a NOOB. I always thought of this euphemism for a pregnant celebrity’s stomach as a relatively recent invention of American tabloids. How wrong I was.

The term seems to have originated in late 1980s Britain as merely bump, sans the “baby.” The OED’s first citation (with telling quotation marks) is from The Times (of London) in January ’86: “The old idea was to hide ‘the bump’ under voluminous maternity dresses.”

Interestingly, as my correspondent pointed out, bump–sometimes, facetiously, the bump–came to refer not only to the protuberance but to the future child beneath it.

The OED quotes a 1999 novel by Charlotte Grimshaw, Provocation:  “Harry … wiped his hands on his kiddie jeans and leaned against her and the bump, his sibling-to-be.”

The addition of the alliterative baby now seems to be inevitable. But it came only in December 2003, my investigations suggest, in the pages of the Australian publication MX: “While Danielle Spencer’s baby bump has really popped out, hubby Rusty Crowe is hitting the streets and parks of Sydney to lose any tummy bulges for his next flick.”

First British sighting: Liverpool Daily Post and Echo caption from September 22, 2004, “Sarah with and without her baby bump.”

And the first U.S. one goes to the San Antonio Express-News, January 27, 2005:

“For the last couple of years, it seemed all of Hollywood’s reigning clotheshorses and glamourpusses were trading in their Birkin bags for diaper bags, their Pilates bellies for baby bumps.”

The most recent use? Well, USA Today posted this sentence two hours ago as I write: “Beyonce debuted her baby bump at the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28.”

Enough already! I am baby bummed.

10 responses to ““Baby bump”

  1. Two more phrases I remember from my time in UK in the ’90s: “over the moon” and “wrap my head ’round” (a concept or idea). I have definitely been hearing them more and more in the U.S. “Over the moon” was used by David Beckham not long ago when talking about his new daughter, but shortly after that I read an article, (I’m fairly sure it was by an American) using the expression “over the moon happy.” Perhaps they felt the need to add the explanatory/redundant “happy” in case readers are still wrapping their heads round the term.

    • I had no idea. Will look into it. Note that the Brits would wrap their head “round” something, the Yanks “around.” And thanks for “baby bump”!

  2. Oh yeah, and another one is “trailer” for movie previews. Americans definitely watched “previews” in the 90s and now everybody seems to say trailer. It’s funny because to me trailer seems to hark back to the times when film would be on a reel and “trailers” could be the pieces spliced on the ends.

  3. Your article is so good I’ve bookmarked it already.

  4. I already have 2 kids but I just know recently that this thing is called “baby bump”. You bring this term to the next level!

  5. I don’t care who started it, I want it to stop. The phrase “baby bumb” annoys to to no end, and I can’t really even articulate why. It’s as obnoxious to me as the whole “Benifer, Brangelina, Tomkat” thing. Yuk.

  6. Pingback: The Baby Formally Known as Prince - Lingua Franca - The Chronicle of Higher Education

  7. Pingback: “Over the moon” | Not One-Off Britishisms

  8. My father, who was an impolite Cockney, Lo those many years ago, said, of a woman he didn’t like, “Claire has a big bump full of wind and piss.” As a small child I thought this was funny and delighted in repeating it. But now I loathe the expression “baby bump.”

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