Here is my latest one for MM:
Yesterday as I was parking the car, my 6-year-old (Tercero) happily informed me that he had learnt a new word. Now Tercero loves new words. At family gatherings his party trick is that he spells words such as unhygienic and unrealistic for adoring elderly relatives. I was expecting symbiosis (thank you Octonauts).
You can imagine my surprise (and understand my near parking accident) when he said the word…actually, I can’t even say it.
He said the C-word, and then he told me he could spell it – because he’s very proud of his spelling (last year he came second in his Kindergarten class for the spelling bee and I’m guessing this word wasn’t on the list).
So before I could pull the hand-brake, those sweet little lips of his proceeded to spell the word.
I was horrified (and later when I reflected on the incident I was also proud of his phonemic awareness, I couldn’t help myself).
But mostly, I was horrified.
I have a friend whose Swearing Policy is as follows: Time & Place – there is a time and a place for such words and all people must learn the appropriate time and place.
I think we can all agree the primary school playground is not the time or the place.
My parents’ Swearing Policy was simple: Never, Ever Do It (this was a policy they extended to a number of activities, but that’s another blog post).
So profanity was not something I became fluent in until I left home. Decades later, I can now swear in several languages, none of which I actually speak. Profanity is also something I’m not comfortable hearing from my children. I’m just not.
My Swearing Policy, which I re-iterated to young Tercero is as follows:
1. Swearing is rude – I actually don’t know why swearing is rude, it’s just something my parents told me and if my children ever probe me on it, I’m likely to swear in German and change the subject.
2. The English language is beautiful and varied – there are so many other ways to express the strong emotions you feel right now. Challenge yourself and find another way.
I also have an Annex which contains a list of words that are considered ‘swear words’ – including but not limited to: shut up (yes really), idiot, hell (unless we’re having a theological discussion), the phrase ‘Star Wars is boring’, the F-word and now the C-word.
After I’d covered the Swearing Policy with Tercero, I felt the need to say more – there was another issue at stake and I realise that many of you will disagree with me.
I asked Tercero if he knew what the word meant. He answered: ‘It means a woman’s personal bits.’
To which I replied as follows:
1.It does indeed mean a woman’s personal bits (yes, I used the word indeed, because in times of parenting trouble I nervously develop weird British verbal tics, although I’m pleased to report I haven’t said rightio or cheerio yet).
2. It’s important to use the correct terminology when describing anything at all. In this case we refer to a woman’s personal bits as her vagina (or vulva if you prefer but people might think you’re swearing in Italian). However, as you’re only 6-years-old, I’ll allow personal bits, but not that C-word you just used.
3. Finally, that word is the most awful way you could describe a woman’s personal bits, I mean her vagina. We always talk about people’s personal bits with respect.
Maybe it’s just me – but I hate the C-word. It has angry connotations. In my mind (and perhaps only in my mind) – when I think of its use in literature, television and film, there’s always some angry person spitting it out at a woman he/she does not respect. It’s intended as a term of great offence.
My vagina and I have been through a lot together – I just don’t want people describing it that way. And I’m prepared to indoctrinate my children on that one.
So your views please – what are your Swearing Policies and are some swear words worse than others?
DISCLAIMER: The author understands and respects people’s right to use any language that isn’t proscribed by anti-vilification laws (whilst she might draft those laws differently).