We never cursed in my house growing up. Never.
In fact, when I first started hearing curse words in school, I thought these words were new. Recently invented and added to the lexicon. Like “spyware” or “unibrow.” Imagine my surprise when I realized that these words were as old as language itself.
To this day, I don’t curse very often. And never in front of my parents. Husband’s attitude toward curse words is decidedly more libertine.
To wit: about a year ago, Husband took Big Boy to our local superstore to stock up on some critically important items, among them Goldfish crackers and our drink of choice chez Motherese, Coke Zero. When they got home, Husband studied the receipt and noticed that he had been charged for ten giant cartons of Goldfish and one bottle of Coke Zero instead of the one carton and ten bottles he had actually bought.
Big Boy’s response – both immediate and on-and-off from that day to the present whenever something doesn’t go his way?
“Damn it damn it damn it.”
Funny, I suppose, and maybe even a little cute. But now I’ve got a two-and-a-half year old son who occasionally cries, “Damn it!” when he upsets a Lego tower or trips over his shoelace.
Not so funny or so cute for the mom who grew up in a curse-free household.
To make matters worse, Big Boy has recently taken to saying “hate” – another word of which I am not particularly fond, especially when it is applied to such innocuous entities as a carrot or a hungry, hungry hippo.
And I can’t even blame Husband and his loose lips for this latest phenomenon. The suspect this time around? Alexander. Of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame. In Judith Viorst’s award-winning children’s book, Alexander hates many things – from lima beans, to kissing, to railroad train pajamas. Big Boy likes Alexander and, apparently, borrows his word of choice when he is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day himself.
And Big Boy’s new habit got me thinking about my own use of language. Although it doesn’t generally bother me when people curse – and I’m actually a big fan of the comic effects of a well-timed epithet – I don’t default to curse words too often. I do, however, share Big Boy’s – and Alexander’s – overuse of the word “hate” – as in “I hate when I do that!” or “I hate this show!”
I throw around the L-word pretty readily too. “I love this song!” or “I love your bag!” or – and this one I roll out daily - “I love this post!”
So I’m thinking today about words, their meaning and their power. The effect of a toddler’s “Damn it!” or a 30-something mom’s “I hate veggie sausage!” Or even “I love that!” And I’m wondering if words lose their meaning if we use them too often – or not often enough.
I suspect, though, that I might be thinking too much. And that Big Boy will grow out of and into other language phases, some far more problematic.
Because, you know, some kids are like that.
Even in Australia.
Where do you stand on curse words? On precision when it comes to language?