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.