Buck's English: Who conceived and who donated?

Gene Owens writes about language issues.
BY GENE OWENS, For The Oklahoman Published: February 16, 2014

A couple of teenage girls who enrolled at Tulane University found that they had a great deal in common, including looks.

A little bit of checking showed that they had been conceived through artificial insemination. A little more checking showed that the sperm donor for the two mothers had been the same man. That's where the word confusion began.

The Tulane Hullaballoo, the student newspaper, reported: “They quickly found out they were conceived by an anonymous Colombian donor, but didn't think much of it.”

Buck thought about it and wondered whether he had the right understanding of the verb “conceive.” American Heritage and Merriam Webster's dictionaries agree that to “conceive” is to become pregnant. That, to Buck, would indicate that the “anonymous Colombian donor” could not have conceived either girl. Although he often hears fathers-to-be say “We're pregnant,” he still holds to the traditional understanding that it's the woman who becomes pregnant, often by her husband. A pregnant husband would be a rare breed indeed.

But just to be sure, Buck looked up the meaning of “pregnant.” Again, his two main go-to dictionaries agreed with each other. “Pregnant” means “carrying developing offspring within the body” (American Heritage), or “having a baby or babies developing inside the body” (Merriam Webster's).

That, to Buck, is plain enough evidence that the girls were not conceived by a common Colombian donor but by two separate mothers who were impregnated by a common donor.

“We're pregnant!” said Billy and Bertie Mae Barleyfield.

“Did y'all toss a coin to see which one delivers?” asked Gopher.

Send questions for Buck to bucksenglish@aol.com. Please let Buck know what town you're from. For other writing by Gene Owens, go to www.wadesdixieco.com.

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