Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Grandma Used to Have an Ass

Don't you just love the kinds of conversations you can get into with kids? This was the killer line in one this week, along with "and grandpa had a favorite bitch." We were talking about swear words and how they became swear words and what their original origins were. So we discussed bitches and bastards and why "shit" is a curse word but "poo" is not.

A couple of years ago, one of my kids' friends came up to me visibly upset. She confided in me that she was really afraid because she didn't know what "the F word" was and was very worried that she might accidentally say the "F word" out loud and offend people. This word held so much power in her head because of its mysterious status that she was very disturbed about it. Many people inadvertantly give swear words enormous power in kids' minds because of the prohibitions against saying them and the mysterious and "bad" aura that hangs over these words. Since that incident, I became even more convinced that the way to take the power and mystique out of such things was just to address them as we do everything else, with open communication and dialogue.

So this week the subject just happened to come up and we discussed them all (well, almost all. I'm actually a bit relieved to say that I didn't have to explain "bugger" because my kids didn't ask, that one would've been just a wee bit more delicate). We talked about where the words come from and why they got their power. We discussed cultural mores through the centuries and why it used to be a terrible insult to be called a bastard, whereas nowadays such a condition is much less rare and not nearly so stigmatized. And of course we eventually also talked about why some folks are offended by curse words and where it is and isn't appropriate to use them.

Surprisingly to some folks (but not really to me) although my kids are well acquainted with these "curse words" and though they are able to use them around me with impunity (I've assured them that I'm almost impossible to offend), the kids don't really curse. Even when stubbing their toe or anything, which is impressive given that I have to work pretty hard to curb my sailor-mouth at times. It's something I struggle with and have to consciously think about in mixed company. I'm happy that my kids are curious about such things, but also show the good sense to know what is and isn't appropriate in social circumstances.

And yes, in case you're wondering, my grandma's ass was named Dolly. She was grey and fuzzy and lived to a ripe old age in the back pasture.


Heather said...

It's funny that we've not had many conversations about "bad words" here. My kids picked up which words were swear words just from context and the slight vocal difference with which they were pronounced. I once had a conversation with one of my daughters about someone she reported to say a "bad word." After much coaxing and reassurance that she would not be punished for repeating it, she admitted it was, "Holy cow.".. This based solely on how it was said. I find that kind of funny.

Brenda said...

Grandma had a very cute ass!

We've had many discussions here about the powerful words. I try hard not to swear because I think it often overshadows whatever point is being made and lessens the impact of the other words, so it cracks my sister up to hear my discussing the forbidden swear words with my kids in a matter-of-fact manner.

Tracy said...

I don't know if I'm showing my ignorance or my location... but I don't know why "bugger" is a bad word! I think I have some google research to do now! LOL

Tracy said...

Okay! I'll all informed now. Thanks for the heads up. I'd heard it, and thought of it as perhaps a cute British saying. It sounded "mild" to my ears. Irritating little "buggers"... like maybe chiggers or mosquitoes. ;-)

Jamie and Kathy said...

i've had the same experience and recently we had the "bastard" discussion. Both boys were thrilled to find out that they are bastards. :)

I swear all the time but the words honestly don't bother me. Right now their only friends are Mormons and the kids will chide me when I use a word that their friends have been told is a "bad" word. So the boys are very respectful of how their words affect others even though they've had complete freedom to use any word they'd like. They know that I don't consider any words "bad" but that the rest of the world defines words as "swear" or "curse" or "bad".