Monday 20 August 2012


A friend of mine’s little boy unleashed a string of expletives the other day as she was bathing him, almost test driving this new lexicon of naughtiness he had picked up somewhere (Not from her of course. We parents are perfect). She reminded him they were not words one uses, and hence bad words. He of course looked at her, said them a few times more, just to see how they felt I’m sure, and then said, 'why is f*ck bad mommy?' She said at that very moment she was stumped for answer. ‘It just is,’ doesn’t really satisfy a three year old now does it. (Not to mention someone in there...let's call it twenties :-0)

It of course got me thinking about the power of words, or shall I say the power we give words, as with each passing day, the King is becoming more and more like a parrot. Hence, it is only a question of time until he and I have the same conversation when mommy let’s one of her favorite bad words slip out of her mouth and he repeats it. Bad bad mommy.

When you take a step back and think about it, some words we have deemed bad, but it is very hard to explain why. Apparently the mighty F word dates back to 1475, but when it became a vulgar term is unclear. “The Oxford English Dictionary states that the ultimate etymology is uncertain, but that the word is "probably cognate" with a number of native Germanic words with meanings involving striking, rubbing, and having sex.” Well okay then. It is funny that something involved with sex has been deemed dirty and vulgar, but not at all surprising.

Anyway, I’m already preparing myself for the conversation when the King asks me certain words are bad, e.g. f*ck, but a word like duck is not. I mean come on, all that separates them is one little letter. For these little people this is sure to be a very confusing topic. Hey, even I have problems figuring out why a word that is so fun to say is so frowned upon. But alas, there are certain words in the English language that one just doesn’t say - in public I might add - what you say in your own closet is entirely up to you - the F word, the C word (no no no), the Samuel Jackson special: ‘bad*ssmuthaf*ck*a! Although that said, this will greatly vary from culture to culture; one man’s f*ck, is another culture’s ‘phuc’ (which means seal in French) and one man’s sh*t is another woman’s meard. Suddenly the power of the bad word looks altogether less powerful, do they not?

Then there are words that have power due to their historical significance, their role and use in terms of oppressing, subjugating and abusing others. We don’t have to go through the list of those words as I’m sure we all know them well and I’m certainly not dropping them here. For some these words have great power and their mere mention brings up a history that is thick, complex and very hurtful. For others, it is just a word they refuse to give power, because in merely giving it power, they are letting it still have some sort of hold over them. 

You see, little words are never quite so little. So bad, good, I suppose it’s how you view it. Some of my friends treat curse words as commonplace and hence deflate the tantalizing effect for their kids to use them. Or they strictly deem them inside words, as opposed to screaming them out in the market words. Others have a list of no-go words that if said, require a nickel in a jar (god would I be rich if I’d done that) or something along those lines.

Obviously I want to teach the King manners and don’t want the King barreling down the street screaming m*therf*cker at the top of his lungs. Seriously what would the f*cking neighbors think? (I kid I kid)

Happy Monday.

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