So we’re watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of the characters says something to the effect of, “Things are going to get tougher from here on out; no more kiddie gloves,” and it hits me: some writer out there is a fucking idiot. Whoever wrote that line, please answer me, WTF DO YOU THINK A “KIDDIE” GLOVE IS? HMMM?? Do you think there’s some special kind of glove worn by children? Have you ever heard of that? Is that logical? Ughhh for some reason stuff like this really bugs me, along the lines of “It’s a doggy dog world” and “For all intensive purposes:” malapropisms, though minor internet research says this might be an “eggcorn.” Either way, I find it unacceptable in published content.
The thing that irks me, to be clear, is not that someone might not know the origin or actual meaning of the phrase “kid gloves” (after all, my husband sheepishly informed me that he did not realize “kid gloves” was not a reference to children’s hand-wear). (For those not in the know, “kid gloves” are gloves made from the skin of baby goats and which were generally soft and thin and used in work requiring a delicate touch, as opposed to utilitarian gloves made from a hardier substance designed to protect the hands from rough work – see the logic of phrase?). The thing that irks me is that anyone would actually use the phrase based on an incomplete understanding. As I pointed out above, “kiddie gloves” are not a thing, and anyone who thinks about it for half a second should realize that. It bothers me that someone who has a public platform for telling stories and using language should not be more aware of the words they choose.
Words and phrases have meaning. It’s true that meanings shift over time, and I am definitely not one of these prescriptive linguists who would attempt to enforce arbitrary rules or try to uphold one dialect or another as “the standard” of English, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules or logic to language, and that anything can mean anything. All languages have a complex and nuanced logic that comprises a mixture of history, metaphor, and instinct, and while I do not expect everyone at all times to treat their word choices with the respect and attention it deserves, I do expect professional writers, during their published speeches, to do so.