In one of my leadership classes, I teach the fact that, for example, colors are only the colors that we say they are because we have agreed, as a world, as humans, that they are the colors that we say they are.
Truthfully, the fact that we universally agree that blue is blue has evolved. For example, the days of the week, the fact that we make all airline pilots speak English, the idea that every month has a specific name are all things that we have agreed upon over the centuries.
So, words have been uniquely decided upon as well.
A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with some friends, one of whom was a native of the Philippines. During our bowl of Vietnamese soup, she began to tell me a story about a verbal accident that she had early on in the United States.
It turned out that the accepted medical term for certain body parts are considered bad words in the Philippines, or at least on some of the islands of the Philippines, while the slang, bad words that we label as unacceptable in the United States are the accepted words there.
When she described a situation that she had observed in her native land utilizing the words that were the acceptable words in her country, the Americans with whom she was speaking nearly choked to death from embarrassment.
Where is this going? Well, my grandkids are learning bad words on their daily bus trips to and from school. Now, the funny thing about these bad words is that I’m not very upset by any of them because they are what they are, words, and we are the ones who make them good or bad.
Because of my somewhat progressive attitudes toward words, these kids tend to feel somewhat liberated when they are alone with me because I don’t yell and scream at them for saying these taboo words. It’s kind of a “what happens in Papa’s car stays in Papa’s car” attitude.
Consequently, the youngest kids are the most fascinated by this opportunity to express themselves without being placed in time-out, reprimanded or challenged. I simply tell them that certain words will really get them into trouble at school or at home, but do not over-react to their experimental verbiage.
One reason for this is Jack Clark. Jack had failed eighth grade about four times and used to use words that were not only bad, but also were completely foreign to me as a third grader. Consequently, when I would occasionally drop one of these bombs, my mom would flip out, and the ol' paddle would make contact with my butt over and over again. Truthfully, I had no idea what they meant, but learned to only say them when I was with my buddies acting macho.
Well, recently, two of my five grandkids have, for all intents and purposes, shocked me.
Of course, I can’t tell you either phrase. But let me just say that the 4 year old asked if she could swear, and then proceeded to call me a “@#^*ing son- of -#@#^&. She is FOUR! When I asked where she learned those words, she smiled and said, "I can’t tell you."
Then, today, the newly turned 6 year old was dying to tell me a new word combination that she had learned. She said, “Papa, I learned two words today, “&^%$-&^$#!” It was actually a descriptive phrase. When I asked her what those words meant, she laughed and said, “If you are bad in church, they might throw you out by kicking you in the $#%-^%&!” She the wordsperfectly.
I suppose it would be wrong for me to admit that I was proud of her mastery of the language. But I was.