A Rose By Any Another Name… Well, Almost Any Other Name

May 10, 2010

I suppose that the following conversation with Emilia was inevitable. I just didn’t expect to have it when she was four.

Emilia, having spilled some juice down her shirt: “oh, f***.”

Me: “Emilia Elizabeth Ann! What did you just say?

Emilia: “I said, oh f***.”

Me: “Emilia, that’s not a nice word. You mustn’t say it, ever.”

Emilia: “Why is it not nice?”

Me: “It’s just not. Lots of people don’t like to hear it. So you mustn’t say it.”

Emilia: “Never?”

Me: “Not while you’re a little girl.”

Emilia: “Not all bad words are always bad to say. ‘Stupid’ isn’t always bad to say.”

Me: “Well, maybe… but that other word isn’t like that.”

Emilia: “What is it like?”

Me: “It’s just a word that little girls shouldn’t say, because it’s not nice to say.”

Emilia: “What if someone’s name is F***?”

Me: ——

Emilia: “Because if someone’s name is F***, it wouldn’t be nice for me NOT to call them their name.”

Me: “Nobody has that name.”

Emilia: “How do you know?”

Me: “I just know.”

Emilia: “What if you’re wrong?”

Me: “I’m not wrong.”

Emilia: “How about, if you are wrong, and I meet someone named F***, I can call them that?”

Me: “Well, honey…”

Emilia: “Because that just makes SENSE.”

Somehow, in the end, she got me to agree that, if she did meet someone whose proper name was, in fact, ‘F***’, and was able to ascertain that ‘F***’ wasn’t just something that other people were calling that person (“but if people call someone that, isn’t that their name?”), and was certain that that person really did want to be called ‘F***’, then she could, in fact, utter the forbidden word with a clear conscience.

I don’t know if I handled that conversation the right way – I don’t know if there was a right way to handle to handle that conversation – but I do know this: if a four year old can argue me down to agreeing to let her curse under certain precise circumstances? I’m f***ed.

How do you handle this? When and if the curses come out, what do you say? How do you explain that some words just shouldn’t be spoken – by children, or by anyone, however you break that stuff down? (And no, she didn’t hear it from us. I don’t think.) What if she DOES meet someone named F***? WHY IS THIS STUFF NOT IN THE OPERATING MANUAL? F***.

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    { 90 comments }

    Megan May 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I was raised with the understanding that if I heard my mother say a word, then it was ok for me to say. I have never, ever heard my mother cuss. She doesn’t even say sucks, like, “that sucks”. So that’s how my husband and I have decided to raise our children. We will not use swear words in front of them and we have asked grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends to not use those words in front of our children either. And so far, no one has had a problem with that.

    Some people will argue that children will hear those words on tv, but mine don’t. Our tv is rarely turned on and if it is, I can assure you that we are not watching a show that uses the f* word. So that’s how we handle that situation in our house. =)
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..Mother’s Day 2010 =-.

    Jennifer May 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I always went with the “it’s a word adults use” while stressing that it’s simply a word, neither bad nor good. People give it the power they want to give it. But we kind of had it easy–our son has no intention of using these words (at the moment). He’s eleven and truly won’t say them in front of us (we don’t really use strong language, so we don’t have to edit ourselves too much). The strongest he gets is “damn.” Or he “bleeps” out the word (quite literally). Your daughter is obviously a really smart cookie–something tells me she’s now going to begin polling people on what their first name is. “Is your name f—?”

    Her Bad Mother May 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

    This is exactly what I’m worried about.

    Maile May 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I don’t know how I am going to handle this… I can’t get my husband to stop saying bad words in front of my little girls…

    and then of course I took my girls to the park and had to listen to some punk high school kids talking about getting their dicks sucked in the bathroom…. OMG WTF I want to homeschool now and my oldest isn’t even 2 yet
    .-= Maile´s last blog ..A Purple Kind of Day =-.

    Her Bad Mother May 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Potty-mouthed teens are a fear of mine – other peoples’, and the ones that my own kids might someday become.

    Michelle May 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

    When my son was that age I taught him there was a difference between ‘bad’ words: F***, Sh**, D***, A** and ‘Ugly’ words: Stupid, dumb, ugly, hate… I told him he was not EVER allowed to use ‘bad’ words, but depending on the situation, ‘ugly’ words might be OK. He never questioned me on the use of the bad word when it relates to being someone’s name. You’ve got a little firecracker on your hands!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Mean Nasty Rotten Old Witch =-.

    jamila May 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    My old roomie has a friend called Fuckrudin. It’s Arabic, I think.

    Catherine May 17, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Awesomest name EVER.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Because Partying With Chipmunks And Princesses Is EXHAUSTING =-.

    Rusti May 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Seriously? CRACK.ING.UP. I can’t contribute much as at 16 months old E’s only repeating words we’re trying to get her to say and repeating multiple times in this endeavor, she’s not yet picking up words we’ve said that she’s overheard… (thank goodness! we haven’t yet gotten down the whole “curbing our language” just yet!!) but I wish you lots of luck dealing with that smart little cookie’s logic :)
    .-= Rusti´s last blog ..listening… =-.

    Melanie May 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t like swearing for the most part, but sometimes do use ‘bad’ words. Usually when I’m extremely frustrated. When my now 11 year old boy was about 5, I had a few opportunities to be frustrated with raising 4 kids, and a dh who worked long hours.
    I realized I was a little over the top with crabbiness one day when I ranted to the kids about the mess in the room and my son interrupted me.

    He said sweetly, “Mom, don’t you mean f***ing mess?”

    I don’t remember what I said. I decided it was time for me to go have a time out and a cup of tea. ;-)

    Catherine May 17, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    tea, or something much, much stronger.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Because Partying With Chipmunks And Princesses Is EXHAUSTING =-.

    Wendy May 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    this had me giggling at my desk today :)
    I remember back to when my son was 2 1/2. I had picked him up at his grandmas house after she babysat him for the day (grandma being my mother-in-law). As we left, she started to hug and kiss his cheeks and she wouldnt stop and he pushed away from her and said “grandma you’re really starting to piss me off!”..oh the look of utter shock on her face (and man it was hard not to burst out laughing). I made some comment about how he must’ve learned that expression from his daddy (nope, he totally learned it from me!!) and we exited quickly.
    Having said all that; my son is 13 nad my daughter is 10. I have told both of them from a very early age (2 1/2 actually) that there are many words that grown ups use to express anger or shock or unhappiness. I told them exactly what the words are and explained that it’s okay to use those words if one is alone and drops a book on their foot or slams their finger in a door but if a child uses those words to hurt someone or in anger and it hurts or offends someone that the child will have to deal with the reaction of that person adn I will not stand up for them. wow..writing it out it sounds complicated but niether of my children swear that I know of. My son probably swears when he’s around other teens or when he’s on the ice playing hockey but I’ve never heard him do it. I feel like I”ve explained what,when and how and empowered them to acknowledge thier situations and assess what is right or wrong for themselves..so far it seems to be working :)

    MommyNamedApril May 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I don’t know anyone named F***, but I do know a Ho Lee. Poor guy. :-)

    Wait until she asks if she can changer HER name to F***
    .-= MommyNamedApril´s last blog ..It’s Probably a Good Thing There’s an Eye Doctor in the Family. =-.

    Her Bad Mother May 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Small mercy that your friend Ho Lee doesn’t have the surname my daughter is interested in.

    Ken May 12, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    We’ve always taught our kids proper use of all words, without restricting their proper usage. We’ve also taught them from day 1 that if someone asked them not to say a certain word that they had to respect that. We kind of waited for a phone call from a teacher or other adult, but that call has never come. We feel like it is our job to teach our kids to use words properly, and it would feel funny for us to not let them use words that we find perfectly acceptable to use under certain conditions. As far as the difference between “ugly” words and “bad” words, we’d much rather our kids say sh*t when they drop something then call someone d*mb because they are angry. Kids are smart, then know when they are being given freedom, and for the most part they are willing to respect certain parameters to retain that freedom. So when my 2 1/2 year old said “sh*t” and I asked him why he said it, and he responded “I said sh*t, papa, because I can’t zip this fuc*ing bag”, I simply stifled my laughter and offered to help him zip it.

    Catherine May 17, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    too f***ing funny. one almost wants to let them swear, for stories like those.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Because Partying With Chipmunks And Princesses Is EXHAUSTING =-.

    patois May 16, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Ah, it brings back memories of the boy I crushed on in fourth grade. His name was Fuku. Yeah. Thanks for that.

    tamara May 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Soooo funny. Sorry, to laugh–but, you never know she may meet somone named F*&K. LOL

    tamara May 22, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Brings back memories of the first time I said it—I tried covering it up though and saying that I said truck. I was 5. Ohhhhh, my mom was ticked. Not as nice as you.
    .-= tamara´s last blog ..Dr. Not So Nice =-.

    excavator May 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Your daughter is brilliant. She’s what, 4? 5? What a mind.

    I have mixed feelings about cussing. On one hand, it’s not like there’s a word (or 10) that GOD said we were forbidden to use because they were inherently evil. No, human beings decide what’s forbidden, and at some point had to come to a consensus, then forget they agreed. Couldn’t “elbow” just as easily be “fuck”? So I have a hard time putting my heart into forbidding forbidden language.

    I’ve told them that these are words that some people think are really really bad, and it offends them to hear them. I told them that since most people feel that way we’ll respect their feelings and not use them.

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