Thursday, May 04, 2006

Baaad words

My boys have learned that certain words are inappropriate, even unacceptable, especially around me. These words are rude, hurtful, disrespectful and upsetting to other people. Yet, some of these rude words creep into their vocabulary just the same, after which they are too hard to weed out.

I did a bit of research on why people swear and I found this info on a kid’s site (Child and Youth Health): “Swearing is a way of speaking that some people use to express their feelings of anger, annoyance, and frustration or when they want to hurt someone else's feelings. Sometimes people swear because they think it is smart or funny.” It goes on to say when swearing is not okay, how to stop swearing, and even suggested creative alternatives for swear words. Heck and double heck! Oh sheep! Silly sausage!

When I’m really frustrated, I say LINTOGENES! (lin-to-ge-nes, with a hard g). I don’t know what the heck it means or where it came from, but it does help me vent at the same time avoid setting off a barrage of unprintables.

Recently, I asked Markus if he had ever heard me swear. “Yeah, I heard you say the S-word once when you had a paper cut…” he said, recalling other details I had no memory of. Moms, your kids are listening behind those walls....

“Really?” I asked. “I didn’t say SHOOT!? They sound similar… Or maybe I did say the S-word…” I tried to rationalize at first then took it back.

“I’m not really sure…” Markus backtracked.

Gabriel and Markus have their favourite swear words of the Level 1 category. By Level 1, I mean the common ones like stupid or idiot. If left unchecked these can quickly deteriorate to level 2, which by my definition includes everything else. Level 2 ones would be a definite no-no in our house and would provoke more than my dagger looks. Unprintables are Level 2. You won’t find these Levels 1 and 2 categories anywhere because I made them up.

As for my teens, they are old enough to know what’s right from wrong. I don’t hear them say the Level 2s, but if they do so in my absence, that’s their choice and I am not their conscience. Eventually, they will have to be responsible for their own behaviour. I’d like to believe that I did my part, or at least tried to, when they were younger.

But with Gabriel and Markus, they are still at that age where as a parent I could steer them this way or that. To their credit, they seem to make some effort to rein in their tongues. Not always, but at least they try. However, I have noticed that sometimes they find a cunning way to avoid saying “bad words” outright and still express the same intent or emotion. It can sound funny, but I try not to laugh. Take these examples:

Markus was rambling and saying things that Gabriel found nonsensical.

“Markus, that’s so stu…” In the next breath, Gabriel said, “I almost said stupid.”

Markus said another thing eliciting a similar reaction from his older brother.

“Markus, you’re an i--… I almost said idiot.” Two hits in a row.

This morning, Markus forgot to do something for his homework and we were in a rush to leave.

“Markus, you’re SO not knowing anything,” Gabriel managed to take the long way to dumb.

It’s not as if Markus is always on the receiving end.

A few days ago, he rushed to me while I was washing the dishes. Apparently, he and Gabriel had just had a tiff while playing Lord of the Rings on the Gamecube. In a hushed but obviously annoyed tone, Markus said, “Mom, I shouldn’t be saying this but I think Kuya Gabriel is a Mordor scum!”

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