A friend of mine asked this question a few weeks ago when one of her beta readers was looking over a manuscript she and I had worked on a lot and felt we had nailed. The respected friend suggested, “It might be better to change raised to reared. My understanding is that animals and plants can be raised, but humans are reared. However, most people don’t use the word reared nowadays, it seems.”

So she asked me.

And I laughed out loud in my office.

Those of us of a certain age were taught things like this in school back in the Dark Ages, just as we were taught to use an with historic (“It was an historic event”). I can’t specifically remember being taught that one only rears children—not in the way I can remember being taught an historic—but I certainly encountered that usage of rear, and we see it still in child-rearing.

(But! But! Look at how Merriam-Webster defines that word!

child–rear·ing (noun)
: the process of taking care of and raising children
— often used before another noun: child-rearing costs, child-rearing techniques
First known use: 1842)

You know how excited I get about my dictionary, right? The Chicago Manual of Style is my guiding star for many things—and it and other style guides all prescribe against an historic—but Chicago also tells us to consult the dictionary first.

Here’s what Merriam-Webster Unabridged says about raise:

raise (verb)
a : to lift or restore to or set in an erect position : set upright : cause or help to stand
b archaic : to rouse from bed or from sleep : bestir, waken
c : to rouse (a game bird or mammal) for a hunter’s pursuit : flush
d : to rouse or incite to action or effort : summon to resist or repel injury : call to war, struggle, or conflict
e : to impart strength, courage, or cheer to (the mind or heart) : encourage, inspirit
f (1) : to bring up (as a familiar spirit or the spirit of one departed) from a lower world : evoke or summon from the world of spirits (2) : to bring back from the dead : restore to life : resurrect
g chiefly Scottish : to make (one) angry or excited
a : to put up (a building) : erect, construct
b obsolete : to draw (a mathematical figure) on a given base
a archaic : to bring (children) into existence : beget
b : to give (children) a parent’s fostering care : bring up : nurture, rear
c : to breed and care for (animals) to maturity
d : to practice the cultivation of (plants or crops) : grow, produce

There are actually twenty-one meanings listed, but I stopped here at the third. Note that the child-rearing meaning is listed first in that category.

            But wait, there’s more! Here’s what Merriam-Webster Unabridged says about rear:

rear (verb)
a : to erect by building : construct
b obsolete : to bring into being : produce, originate
a (1) : to lift up to an erect position : set up on end : raise upright (2) : to lift upward especially so as to hold aloft or so as to cause to project far upward : elevate,
b dialectal, chiefly England (1) : to rouse from bed or sleep (2) : to drive (game) from cover
c dialectal, chiefly England : to stir up to action : arouse
a (1) : to breed and raise (an animal) for use or market (2) : to bring up (a person) by fostering, nourishing, and instructing
b : to cause (as plants, produce) to grow
4 : to cause (a horse) to rise up on the hind legs

Now note that rear and raise are used interchangeably for both humans and nonhumans.

As I continued to poke around on the interwebs, I found this: The AP Stylebook says as recently as 2013, “Only humans may be reared. All living things, including humans, may be raised.” And I love what William Safire said in the NYT way back in 2006: “Although I’m usually a prescriptive usagist, I’ll now argue that to tut-tut at ‘I’m raising my kid to be a billionaire’ is to commit an incorrection. (That relatively new noun means ‘a correction that is itself incorrect.’)”

My friend’s friend is probably a prescriptivist, as I was about twenty years ago. But I’ve learned to roll with the flow, you know? There are going to people who never accept it, but the fact is, as we editors say again and again, language and grammar continue to evolve. I’ll go with my dictionary every single day. And raise is just fine for what we do with kids.

Tweet: Those of us of a certain age were taught things like this in school back in the Dark Ages.
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