My answer to the question Is there a term for a child born after the death of its sibling? appears to hurt the feelings of a few sensitive users. Though I am sorry for that I don’t see how one can take this issue personally. I am just citing an expression used in scientific papers. This is a language site (is it?) so what has perceived rudeness got to do with it? Swear as well as taboo words have been dealt with before on this site, so what’s the problem with my answer?


Given that an increasing number of users appear to be upset by my answer, and given that every single word may be percieved as inopportune and offensive to different people in different contexts I think we should probably create a new tag which automatically will appear under every question and every answer (old and new) which says that: "NO OFFENCE WAS MEANT TO ANYONE"

I deleted my answer because I don't like to see that people are offended by words I posted, even though words are the pure and only essence this site is about.

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    The comments are not aimed at you, they're aimed at the expression itself. You didn't coin the phrase, so why feel offended? – Mari-Lou A May 10 at 19:26
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    No, you were not blamed for doing so. The user simply said it would sound incredibly rude They didn't say you were rude, they're speaking about the expression and the definition, which is a bit bare, isn't it? And this stark definition adds to the sense of being unfeeling. Again, you didn't come up with the expression, just find some examples online to padd out the answer. Do you think it's a more accurate expression, I do, well find more supporting evidence. – Mari-Lou A May 10 at 19:43
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    @user66974 I don’t see anything antagonizing or rude about that comment. It means what it says. I know you’re sensitive to criticism in the comments on your posts, but honestly this case seems like there’s no “there” there. – Dan Bron May 10 at 21:51
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    No you aren't being rude. But people are people and will take things according to the situation. Those who are upset at your answer probably should be upset at the question itself. All the answers there (as usual with SWRs) would be improved immensely by adding commentary about how the term would be taken: vulgar, technical, generality, etc ('rainbow child' is an obvious euphemism for the more blunt 'replacement child'). Also, all of these would be helped immensely by examples 'in the wild'. – Mitch May 11 at 0:50
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    I went back to look and I understand that the criticisms that followed are excessive, but it does illustrate how that expression could be viewed as insensitive and cold- hearted. Just tell people they're right and add the caveat in the answer. – Mari-Lou A May 11 at 6:55
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    And I suggest you look at the comments below decapitated soul's answer. They're hardly flattering because the subject is highly sensitive and raw. People feel the need to express their hurt their anger because keeping that suffering inside leads to a built up of stress and dull pain that never goes away. Respect people's feelings.This is a site about the English language but it's used by humans. – Mari-Lou A May 11 at 7:08
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    @user66974 It is unfortunate that you deleted your answer. The question as a whole has a lot of emotion around it, but your answer is just as valid as the other one (or actually moreso). However troublesome these words might be, there are definitely people who use them and there should be a record of them so that they can be recognized. – Mitch May 11 at 15:58
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    Can you undelete the answer? I see there's already an undelete vote on it, and I could cast my own, but it's better when the author undos their self-delete. I made a change along the lines of what I was thinking (could be rolled back but I think including something is worthwhile). – Laurel May 11 at 21:30
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    @Michael Harvey - all traumatic events we all experience in life deserve respect. But this is a language site, not a psychological help center. If anyone needs help in that respect, this is not the right place and it is unfair to attack anyone for just posting a medical definition of an event. – user 66974 May 12 at 7:18
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    @user66974 - please understand that my comment was not intended to attack anyone; I am equally happy with medical or comforting terms for the event under discussion; I don't consider myself to be in need of 'psychological help'. I just threw the anecdote out there. – Michael Harvey May 12 at 7:26
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    No one is attacking you. You have at least five users telling you that. You have at least three users suggesting that you undelete the post. You were not being "attacked", one of the users could have rephrased their objections more nicely, (Absolutely NOT. You can't replace a dead baby. I know, I suffered the consequences of this situation. This is pop psychology bullshit. The fact is the child who comes next can suffer a lot. The parents may think it is a "replacement" but that's because they can't or didn't properly mourn the dead child or baby. Geesus.) – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 12:09
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    They were not attacking you personally, just the language. Keep it real, will you. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 12:12
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    I can't tell you how you feel. I'm just someone from the outside who doesn't see this persecution that you speak of and if none of the comments that support you here convinces you differently, it must be awful to feel so alienated. – Mari-Lou A May 12 at 14:01
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    On the other hand, while there's a lot of good information in your replacement answer and it's clearly well-supported by the literature, I don't feel it's worthy of an upvote at the moment. That's because it lacks a note on appropriate usage which would be helpful on a difficult topic, especially given the context form "I once heard a parent use a phrase to describe it" in the question – Chris H May 13 at 10:56
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    @ChrisH - I can’t recommend any usage, what I can do, and did, is to show where the expression is found and used. Its origin, its main field of usage, and its usage outside strict medical/academic contexts such as popular papers etc. Having said that it is up to our grown-up users if, how, when and where to use it. – user 66974 May 13 at 11:03

On a site like this that addresses all of English, it's inevitable that there will be content that talks about offensive, rude, and vulgar language. That's fine!

What your answer needs is just one thing: mention that it's not appropriate to use the expression in all situations (ie, say that it's used in scientific papers and may be considered rude outside of that). Since you didn't, having a comment along those lines was useful to prevent the readers with little proficiency in English from making a mistake.

But... the tone of some of the comments went too far and there was no reason for there to be so many. Hopefully a moderator can sort it out.

Endgame: undeleted, edited answer with most or all of the comments removed.

  • The Wikipedia article is a stub, but it provides some clues. The term is used to describe the kinds of problems faced by a surviving child, depending on family dynamics. Thus it may not really be an appropriate answer to the question. – Xanne May 12 at 8:49
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    @Xanne - where does it say that it is about a “surviving child” and not a child born after the death of their sibling? – user 66974 May 12 at 10:26
  • In the references. The title of the main article is The Effects of Sibling Death on the Surviving Child: A Family Perspective ROBERT KRELL M.D. LESLIE RABKIN Ph.D. – Xanne May 12 at 22:31
  • Spot on. In this particular case, I would take the comments into account and add a warning that the use isn't always appropriate (as Laurel has done very well). It's certainly valid. I'd also suggest undeleting. The comments are perhaps a little blunt, but IMO forgivable on a sensitive topic; I wouldn't have been unduly offended had I written the answer. – Chris H May 13 at 10:46
  • @ChrisH - I was not offended, I didn’t want to seem to offend those who were visibly upset by such expression. Why they find this expression so rude is still a mystery to me. It is a medical, academic expression in use from the ‘60s. Do doctors and psychologists know how bad it is? – user 66974 May 13 at 10:58
  • I have said to my wife, and she agrees, that I felt it would be difficult for a child born after a child who was still living, but needing transplant, tissue donation, etc. I called such a child a 'spare parts baby' and I guess the parents might object, but that's how I feel. – Michael Harvey May 13 at 18:03

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