Monday, November 21, 2011

Fanny Scabs

So we've done it.

My daughter has finally hit that age where I can't do stuff on the sly and get away with it. So I can't sneak a snack in the car without her noticing. I can't tell her she can't have something and then try and sneak it for myself. And I certainly can't say anything about anything assuming she doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about. I know this because in the space of one morning my daughter asked me if her mother had gone back into the store, "to buy lady-plugs," and had earlier repeated the beautiful phrase, "fanny scabs" back to me playfully. Now I don't remember why I had come up with that. Let's just assume it was to describe something wonderful and was an innocent thing. The point is I thought I could just throw it out there with impunity. Then I would bask in my awesomeness because my daughter wouldn't say anything. Sadly a full three or four minutes later - and in an entirely different room - she sweetly turned to me and smiling said, "fanny scabs!"

I had a quick word obviously. Being the sponge that she is should mean I can't say anything I like. Or - even better - I can subtly slip in facts and truths about things that will be the building blocks of her understanding of the world around her. So I can read quietly out loud from the Protocols of The Elders Of Tierra del Fuego (the infamous written penguin plan for achieving global domination, which I believe is now available on audio book narrated by Morgan Freedman). Or I could completely litter my language with as many regional English forms of pronunciation as I can muster in an effort to have her avoid saying some words in a way that makes my skin crawl. As in how people around here don't pronounce the whole of a word like, "nothing" but rather say something like, "nuh-hnnn." I can't have my offspring uttering the word, "burglarized."

Mostly though I should use this opportunity to teach her as many native slang and swear words as I possibly can. I'm often asked by Americans what the fundamental differences are between Americans (as a whole) and English people (usually meaning British people, as a whole). They want to hear about culture, or politics of even societal upbringing to explain how our two societies can be so different. Instead I carefully explain that the main striking difference is that in the UK we have a lot more slang words for penis than they do. Sure there are other things, but mostly what defines me as different from you is that I know the phrase, "spam-javelin" and you do not. And on a larger scale I obviously mean that English-English is inherently littered with slang and euphemistic naughtiness in a way that American-English (which according to Microsoft Word really exists) seems devoid of.

This is what I wish to teach my daughter. Because while many of my American friends can happily watch a TV show like 24 and not flinch at the barbaric torture, the over-glorified celebration of violence or bizarre assertion of American hegemony over the globe due to some purported divinely attributed exceptionalism, they will baulk and switch off if Jack Bauer says the word, "fuck." Because swearing is wrong and corrupts society. Guns and murder, Yes. Potty mouth and apparently nipples on TV, No Way. Us cheeky British people can cheekily dance around that with our plethora of naughty words that - when actually examined - are not only oddly quite innocent, but don't actually make sense. This ranges from low-level commonly used words like, "twat" and "minge" all the way through the word, "arse" (an infinitely better word than "ass" ever will be) and arriving at the long complex lengthy phrases employed by every civilized adult British person. Because frankly I don't want to hear my daughter tell me that she's fell over and hurt her boo-boo. No, I want her to point out that she's fallen arse-over-tit, made a dog's-dinner of it all and now has a sore arse. Sadly being in the US the common use of sweary insults as a way to be affectionate to your friends will never happen. So she will never be able to warmly turn to a friend and say, "you daft fucking muppet" without causing untold offense. Oh well - she can do that with me.

Of course that will come. What I don't want though is for my little girl to just repeat mild naughty words that all adult Americans find offensive. Which may happen sooner rather than later. That's because my had her first play date yesterday. As in had another kid over for ninety minutes to just goof around. Not a Mom's Club meeting. Not a designated after-event child-mingling. Not playing with family or friends children during a visit. No - some kid from school who's parents we do not know was dropped off so that the two of them could actually just play without needing parental relationships in place beforehand. It was her best-friend in school. And by that I mean the real one. All the kids are bad with names so they say to whoever is sat next to them, "hey Best Friend - could you pass me the bullets?" Or something along those lines. But when it comes to the crunch this guy is her real best friend. I had exchanged letters via school to this kid's parents and arranged for them to get together and do mayhem yesterday. His father brought him over - I explained it was not a problem for him to take off and not have to do small-talk for an hour - and he explained that his kid also hadn't done this before so let's see what happens

And it went well. The other boy was a bit spaced out to start. A new house filled with toys he'd never seen and not surrounded by people he knows would be odd. It was helpful to me too because it really highlights all the weird crap you teach your own kids in normal that everyone else thinks is weird. So he thought it was really weird that we have a bouncy horse in the living room. And he thought that all the riding toys were pretend lawnmowers. And best of all when they played doctors and nurses (which made my wife feel weird) my daughter looked in his ear and told him that the problem he had was that there was a tomato stuck in it. He looked at her like she was possibly mental. But - God bless him - ten minutes later when they came back to playing it he diagnosed her problem as having a banana stuck in her eye. Hopefully he'll take that home with him.

Helpfully too he has older siblings. So he's been taught that when he doesn't really want to be led by the nose that he doesn't have to. My daughter likes to be the leader of everything, so it was very healthy for her to hear him say, "no, I don't want to." It wasn't intended to be upsetting - he just didn't want to. Which she took pretty well too. Although sometimes this also meant that he'd say no - we're doing this instead - and she would go for it a bit too easily. But I've seen her in big groups - nobody tells her what to do after a certain period. Outside of that he said a few odd things. When he saw the guitars in the house he kept yelling, "let's jam the house!" And when he saw a toy that he thought was phenomenal (I forget what it was) he just exclaimed, "Damn!" Which she will not be learning. No sir.

Because when she sees something cool she'll be saying, "now this - this is the dog's bollocks."

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