A couple nights ago I was sitting on the couch with my 4-year-old. He was watching YouTube videos of Hot Wheels and came across a car that blew his mind so much it caused him to do his best Ice Cube and Chris Tucker impersonation:
I did a double take, offered the obligatory “Now, now…we don’t say those words” (even though that one came from his older brother, who is fond of a drawn-out “damn”), chuckled under my breath, and moved along with my night.
Only my thoughts kept coming back to kids and swearing. Or, more specifically, how children are seemingly magnetized to naughty words. For instance, when my oldest son was a few months shy of three years old, I was watching an R-rated comedy on TV while he was playing on the floor in the living room. Up until that point, I’d never really censored what I watched in front of him — new, dumb parent, ya know? I forget if it was that same day or later in the week, but I was at the grocery store and had the wee lad in the cart with me. All of my shopping was done, so I got in line to wait for my turn at the register. When it gets around to me I start putting groceries on the conveyor belt, and it’s at this time that my son starts screaming…
“CAMEL TOES! CAMEL TOES! CAMEL TOES!”
(For readers not in the know, here’s a definition for camel toes as stated by Urban Dictionary: “A vaginal wedgie (“vedgie”), most commonly caused by tight pants that work their way into the crevices of the vagina making a shape that clearly resembles a camel’s toe.”)
It was at that moment that every light in the store shut off, casting the area into complete darkness, after which a spotlight shown down from the rafters, pinning me to the spot I was standing as my son continued screaming “CAMEL TOES!” at the top of his lungs and every other person in the store turned to face me and my chanting child. My forehead got hot as my face undoubtedly flushed crimson. My armpits became geysers of sweat, soaking my clothing and causing the customer behind me to wash away in the ensuing tidal wave (one less person to leer his judgement at me and my son, thank God). OK, OK….so the lights stayed on, but I definitely turned fifty shades of red and had to wash my shirt when I got home. To say I was mortified would be an understatement.
But it gets a guy thinking: of the thousands of words spoken during the course of that movie, 99.99999% of which weren’t vulgar in any way, what was it about that phrase that was so stuck in his head it just had to be released over and over again? I suppose in some cases it could be the speaker’s inflection that creates the lasting memory, but I swear to God I could hire Ben Stein to stand before my little children, recite the following list of words in his dull monotone…
…and the kids would immediately start saying “fuck,” despite the fact that “fuck” rhymes with nice words like “truck” and “duck,” and the word “kumquat” – while not vulgar in its definition – sounds like something an injured porn star would list on his employee comp claim.
Before I call it quits, I wanted to recommend a comic strip to my followers (all four of you, God bless your souls). I’ve been reading Brian Gordon’s Fowl Language for a couple years now, and in my opinion there’s no better strip out there, ESPECIALLY if you’re a parent of small children. I’m not sure if Mr. Gordon has tackled having your foul-mouthed child bring the house down in a grocery store, but he’ll make you gut-laugh about myriad other topics. I can’t recommend him enough. I know for certain the webcomic is available on both his personal website and his Facebook page (just search out “Fowl Language”), and there’s also an iOS app that archives all of the old strips as well as notifies you when a new one is available. In the cesspool that is the App Store, the Fowl Language app is one of those rare diamonds in the rough that should be on everyone’s handheld device. Or, if physical books are more your thing, he also had a collection published last year, entitled Foul Language: Welcome to Parenting. Whichever method you choose, I promise, you’ll enjoy it. I’ll close with my favorite of his pieces, one that I keep on my desktop at work and chuckle over after every long holiday away from work.
Until we meet again…