One day a woman approached my mother and said, “Your teenaged sons have taught my toddler a word we don’t allow in our home. It’s so bad, I won’t even say it. I’ll spell it.”
What horror. I’m sure she was thinking, Oh please no. Please no.
Oh no, even worse than I thought! No, no, no, no….
Oh. Is that all? I’ll handle it.
There is a list of words I don’t allow in our home either. The rude rendition of “Be quiet” is indeed among them. So are words like stupid, idiot, jerk and so forth. I call them “fightin’ words” as they invariably start a fight, and so as not to confuse them with real bonafide swears.
Years ago, I subbed for a Sunday school class of six year olds where I should’ve used the adjective “foolish” to describe how Billy in the story had made a poor choice but I let the words “stupid mistake” slip out. From there the lesson derailed. All they could talk about was how they couldn’t believe the teacher “swore” (she said the S’ word!!) in class while I feebly attempted to defend my poor word choice. I was not asked back.
And while “stupid” is not a swear, now I know, them’s fightin’ words. Words like “stupid” were easy enough to tamp out when all my children were at home full time and I could trace back every word in their limited vocabularies to either myself or to PBS Kids. Now it’s different.
For example, my sixth grader can innocently exclaim, “I can’t believe I forgot my assignment! I’m such an idiot!!” Meanwhile, his parrot of a two year old sister happens by and decides to weave the word “idiot” into the fabric of her dialogues the rest of the day. Charming.
Lately, she’s taken to using the word “crap” to express any kind of displeasure or frustration. While not the language of poets, but not necessarily a fightin’ word either, “crap” never really bothered me until it started spewing out of the mouth of her otherwise angelic face.
In a home with zero tolerance for curse words and on top of that, a home that struggles to put the kibosh on fightin’ words too, there are very few expletives left for a frustrated grade schooler. Sadly, “crap” has won out as the one word mom and dad don’t tsk their tongues and purse their lips at. And my kids revel in it.
Well, no more. It only takes one trip to the bank where the teller kindly hands your toddler a lollipop and they wrinkle their nose and call that particular flavor “crap” to realize, oh crap, you’ve created a monster.
So I’ve created a new list of questionable words apart from the swears and the fightin’ words. I call them “Ugly Words,” because they just make you look and sound ugly. So “crap?” Them there’s an ugly word.
My goal is to help my pretty princess, who spends the majority of each day twirling in a pink tutu, to associate ugly words with the word “ugly” itself. And who wants to be ugly?
You’d have to stupid, uh, I mean foolish, to keep saying it.
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free lance writer, wife, and the mother of six small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com