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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bmag Aug 20th 2013 - Kids v children

Years and years ago, long before my radio show ever won the ratings, ABC colleague and mentor – now Channel Nine newsreader – Andrew Lofthouse whispered in my ear that the only way to be successful was to be yourself. This came at a time when I had taken over the ABC breakfast show from Peter Dick – we’re talking 1997 or thereabouts – and it’s fair to say I was feeling the pressure to replicate the style of my predecessor. Since then, I’ve relaxed and become more confident in my ability to bring to the table what I believe makes for essential morning radio listening – new, useful, interesting, and local information with a laugh or two and some great tunes.

In 2013, there’s no doubt in my mind that what you hear on my breakfast radio show is 100 per cent me. Or is it only 98 per cent? Because, truth be told, there are two things I say differently on air and off air.

The first one exploded when I raised it on Facebook recently. You can read some of the responses below and it is this: though I will use the word if we’re chatting casually in the street, I still avoid saying ‘kids’ when I’m on the radio (except the odd, unscripted moment where it can and does slip out). The reason being, we used to get a complaint every time: "Kids are baby goats!" In recent times, I haven't heard anyone saying that (about goats) and I've noticed both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader use the word ‘kids’. Is it time I relaxed my stance and gave myself permission to say ‘kids’ on air?

Here are some of the Facebook replies, which have left me thinking, on balance, it is probably better to continue using the more formal (and respectful) term, but what do you think? In favour of ‘kids’ is Tony Bellette: “PC nonsense has to disappear. When I was a young bloke, announcers were trained to sound British and it was great to hear the Australian sounding voices on radio when they were given permission to be themselves.”

Chris Williams agrees: “I have always used ‘kids’ as a term of endearment even in my teaching career. No one ever complained to me!” Writes Stephen Mackie: “To complain about it is ridiculous. That falls into the `sort of nonsense up with which I will not put’ category.” From Gold Coast singer Vivica: “Just be yourself and say what you want. People will not stop listening because of one word millions of people use.” And from Dan Beeston: “If you're letting the sort of person who's that pedantic about language govern your show you're pandering to the wrong audience.”

But, I don’t see this as pedantry. For me, it’s about using respectful language. Having said that, ‘kids’ is more affectionate. See how I swing from one side to the other? Ann Lacey remembers: “My grandmother would say that about kids and goats. I have worked in the child care profession for over 36 years and I just can't say kids. I always say children. If you do say it I hope it’s only rarely.” Says Andrew Mason: “Some of us have to maintain standards Spencer!”

And Sheila Wilson asks: “Why can't we call children CHILDREN? I know... because everything has to be shortened to suit our laziness. Good on you Spencer. Children are children.” Leanne McKnoulty reminds us what’s really important here: “I'm always perplexed by this conundrum. My conclusion - what matters most is our attitude toward each young person not the label.” Finally, from former Triple M breakfast host Sammy Power: “There are a lot of worse words you could say!”

I mentioned there were two things I say differently on air and off. The other one isn’t just me. It’s an old radio convention still applied by the ABC (and some other stations, I’m sure) and that is to give the time as “16 minutes to four” instead of 3.44. At home, I say 1.25 or 2.55. On air, that becomes 25-past-one or five-to-three. Send me an email. I’d love your feedback on ‘kids’ versus children and how you would like radio announcers to tell the time.

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