I WORRY the world is getting sillier. You might not think so, given that we no longer ride penny farthings or believe manure cures baldness, but then every so often a story comes along to confirm the theory. One came along last week. The word “Mumpreneur” has just been added to the Collins English Dictionary.
I’ll just give you a moment to gather yourself, read the word again, say it out loud, and snort tea through your nose. Are we settled? Good, then I’ll go on.
There are several reasons the news made me do a full-body shudder and a sherbet lemon face. Firstly, as the more astute among you might have noticed, the word simply doesn’t work as a pun. It’s a syllable short. It doesn’t rhyme with the original word. “Mum-tre-preneur” is a slight improvement but still, frankly, stupid.
This pains me greatly, as I’m a big fan of punning – so much so that I’ve almost managed to build a career on it. The day I used the headline “Better the Breville you know” on a selection of toasted sandwich recipes was one of my proudest life moments to date. But puns deserve respect, not this whimsical mangling. If we continue casually jamming words onto the front of other words with no regard for true pun power, we’ll end up living inside the worst newspaper in the world. What if “Ladyecutive” becomes a term? Or “womeeting”? When will people learn that being female doesn’t mean we need a set of special, rose-scented terms to dress up life’s more serious facets? The original words will do just fine.
Which brings us neatly to the second reason. It is a pointless word. It means “a woman who combines running a business with looking after children” – and there is a word for that. It’s entrepreneur. Y’know, that word we already have, which makes no specification on gender or parental status in the first place. Not only does labelling women with a twee pretend-title belittle their achievements (both in boardrooms and delivery rooms), but it’s also a rough deal for the bog standard entrepreneurs without Mummy-caches to their names.
Why are there no Dadpreneurs? Those businessmen in American movies who walk out of the Big Meeting to race across town to their kid’s oboe recital, they never got a special name.
Lastly, the most immediate of all reasons – it’s naff. Use the word Mumpreneur and you have instantly reduced the subject to a Boden-clad mimsy selling organic jams at a farmers’ market. It has no dignity, no clout. It suggests you might deliver quarterly reports written in glitter glue, with an unidentified stain in the corner.
Let’s just be clear – being a mother is one of the most admirable things to be in the world. Mums can locate a lost PE kit, pay a gas bill and wipe a spitty hanky over your face with one hand while making a fully authentic Roman battle helmet out of papier-mâché with the other. Mums are terrific. But I’m no more likely to invest in your business because you’ve given the miracle of life to multiple miniature people. It’s irrelevant.
Think up a good pun, on the other hand, and we might have a deal.