Wot's in a name?

“Wot’s in a name,” she sez? Some common sense, please.

Remember when ‘human resources’ was called ‘personnel’? When ‘team members’ and ‘associates’ in department stores were called, simply, ‘staff’? Over the years the names of many jobs have been changed in an attempt to improve perceptions of them. Sometimes these changes makes sense, but sometimes they do nothing but cause unnecessary confusion.

A good example of the latter is a term that is starting to be used inside DEEWR (the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) to refer to what you probably know as Nannies and babysitters. That term is ‘Early Learning In-Home Childcare Educators’.  Now, apart from being an extraordinary mouthful, I have a number of problems with this term.

First, as a qualified secondary teacher and educator myself, I am never comfortable with the term ‘educator’ being applied to those who have not received a formal teaching qualification. I have also received horrified feedback on this from other qualified teachers. The fact is that while our Carers are all properly trained, they are not tertiary qualified teachers or educators. This might sound a little pedantic, but I think it is important that trained educators are given the recognition they deserve, and that community expectations of educators are maintained.

Second, the term lumps together the roles of Nanny and babysitter, something we have never done in the past. Both of these roles have had name changes over the years – we ourselves prefer use ‘on-call pro-active childcare’ to ‘babysitting’ – but they have always been separate. While our casual childcarers, once known as babysitters, provide a safe, healthy and stimulating environment for children, they do not provide the continuity of care that a Nanny provides. Users of these services need to understand this distinction; bundling the two roles under one name removes it. And again, maintaining expectations is important.

Finally, ‘Early In-Home Childcare Educator’ is a confusing term which reeks of bureaucracy and will achieve nothing in the way of clarifying the role of Nannies. I have no problem with the current formal term for Nanny, ‘In-Home Childcarer’, or even my newly designed ‘Educarer’. It is clear, it is easy to remember and it removes any perceived link between nannies and housework.

The new term adds nothing to this last point and is neither clear nor easy to remember. Back in 1935, CJ Dennis parodied Shakespeare in The Sentimental Bloke, asking “Wot’s in a name? Wot’s in a string o’ words”. Around this time he also wrote an article bemoaning the way Australian bushmen were giving newly discovered plants unimaginative common names. Today’s bushmen, it seems, are government departments which insist on creating long, messy names which try to cover all the bases but end up covering none.



Wot's in a name? -- she sez . . . An' then she sighs,
An' clasps 'er little 'ands, an' rolls 'er eyes.
"A rose," she sez, "be any other name
Would smell the same.
'Wot's in a name?" she sez. 'Struth, I dunno.
Billo is just as good as Romeo.
She may be Juli-er or Juli-et --
'E loves 'er yet.
If she's the tart 'e wants, then she's 'is queen,
Names never count ... But ar, I like "Doreen!"
Wot's in a name? Wot's in a string o' words?