Cultural differences 1
They have got a sweet little baby! He’ll be three years old next week.
Now if I had not known that this sweet little ‘baby’ was nearly three years old, I might have reacted by saying, ‘Ooh, let’s go and see the coochy-coochy little darling,’ fully expecting to see a little child lying in its cot or wrapped up warmly in its mother’s arms either crying, sleeping, looking into the eyes of all these strange adults staring at them and making funny noises and faces, or sucking on a bottle (or mummy) [that is the baby, not the adults, as I am sure you will understand], or doing an activity that involves filling up its nappy (American English, diaper). But then I would be shocked to discover that this little baby is in fact walking, sometimes talking, and generally wanting to do what they want and not what the parents want and getting very frustrated about it (both the parents and the child), and I would then start looking at the parents, wondering what they are doing with this child.
I think that one of the reasons why baby is used by learners is because of the popularity the word has with families in the United States. There, it is fashionable to refer, with affection, to your loved children as babies. Plus, of course, there are a large number of popular songs which include the word baby or babe to refer to someone the singer loves very much.
But in the United Kingdom, a baby remains a baby until they are one-year old, or have just about started walking. Then, of course, when they have started walking, they are usually not very steady on their feet and look like they are about to fall over (and sometimes do so). At this general stage of unsteadiness when walking, the little one is now called a toddler as this unsteady movement when walking is known as toddling.
Once they have become very confident on their feet, or at the latest, when they reach three years of age, then we can call them little boys or girls.
So if they are already walking and talking (which at nearly three years of age, is very likely), then we can definitely call them their child, a little boy or a little girl. But when they have celebrated their third birthday, they are definitely NOT babies.
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