Profane and high-octane kids set the world aflame | Daily News

Profane and high-octane kids set the world aflame

One of the most affecting memories from childhood involves my neighbour Ferna, at age 11, getting his mouth washed out with soap for uttering a swear word. I cannot recall the specific word, but I do remember the gagging and foaming, amidst promises never to repeat the offence.

I was certainly careful to keep my own language G-rated in front of his mother after witnessing that disturbing event! Personally, I don't find profanity inherently offensive as some people do. To me it depends on the context. That's not to say my language is a shining example of pristine purity. I can swear with the best of them when the occasion demands it.

To be perfectly honest, my language of late could merit some soapy mouthwash. And, I guess I am not alone in facing such 'lathering' justice. But in mitigation I must plead that I never spew out cuss words in the presence of children, maiden aunts and those venerable ladies cloistered in convents, known as nuns.

Most of all, you have to mind your language particularly when the nippers are around. Because anything you say, may be repeated at the most inappropriate time against you. What I mean is those same maledictions may be thrown at you personally by disgruntled scallywags.

Frustrated swearing is different from a verbal attack directed at someone. You might unintentionally fire off a nasty word when you accidentally whack your thumb with a hammer. If parents set this example of swearing in frustration, children are likely to imitate this behaviour in similar situations.

For one thing, many parents let a few strong words fly when they are frustrated or forget they are in the company of kids. And some of the TV shows many brats watch, particularly on cable networks, tend to pepper the action with words such as ‘stupid’ and ‘jerk’ and ‘butt-head’.

Yet it seems that society today accepts, or at least tolerates, a certain level of profanity. Yet, when it comes to our kids and cussing and swearing we often adopt a 'do as I say, not as I do' attitude. Yes, we have met the enemy, and it is us. No surprise then that the brats mimic words and phrases, because that's just part of the language learning process.

But early exposure to objectionable vocabulary is not so uncommon. And some of the bluest outbursts that come out of the mouths of babes and sucklings can often make us see red. And particularly so when the profane becomes high-octane.

Grandson Kingco, when around four, was no exception. But as I said earlier, it depends on the context. The only extenuating circumstances weighing in his favour were his surroundings. He was domiciled in a country somewhere ‘Down Under’ where swearing appears to be a national pastime.

Of late, he had been scandalizing his grandmothers, aunts and the rest of the family by using certain unutterable words. One particular taboo word could clearly be described as 'ineffable'. That doesn't mean he knows the meaning of the word although he does know it's taboo in this neck of the woods. The 'swear jar' where he had to deposit a buck every time he dropped a 'potty' word or phrase was already full.

They tried the universal deterrent of threatening to wash his mouth out with soap. Fat hope! The technique in this instance failed miserably. Rather than fear the frothy, foamy mouthwash, he seemed to savour the prospect of its sudsy flavour. Reaching out for the glass of bubbly liquid he expostulated: "Oh goody...gimme that and gimme a straw I can blow bubbles!"

As expected, the family matriarchs in particular were exasperated.

I thought I'd get creative and conjure up my own words to replace the objectionable ones. I explained to Kingco that usually there are only three or four really bad words used by people who swear, so swearing is not funny, it's boring. I imagined a clear message about respect may be more fruitful than trying to police every word.

So I started with my favourite 'cheese n'crackers' and then went on with a few harmless ones such as 'drat', 'darn,' 'oh, shoot,' 'tarnation,' 'heck and double heck' and 'my giddy aunt.'

He seemed to like them all, especially the last one, which he at the least unexpected moment unleashed on a scatter-brained cousin of mine greeting her with: "Oh, my giddy aunt!"

He did push the limits of parental patience during a family word game. You know, the type of diversion, a collection named from an old pencil and paper parlour game we used to play before the goggle-box came into living rooms. You pick a letter then make a list of bird, beast, fish, fruit, flower, boy's name, girl's name, countries and cities among others.

It all went smoothly until Kingco began striving frantically to come up with a name of a flower beginning with the letter 'f.' Struggling for the name of a bloom he kept mouthing inconsequential bloomers that went something like: "Flick, flack, flock..." And then suddenly in complete frustration he dropped the F-Bomb which exploded in the living room with vicious volatility.

Justice was administered swiftly and fairly. He was sentenced to the corner punishment chair. He took it like a man, accepting the verdict with astonishing equanimity. But for sure he'll make a great lawyer someday.

Leaning forward from his seat of imprisonment he addressed me: "Hey Dada, if I have to sit in the corner for saying it you can at least tell me what it means!"

But Kingco also realised that even the differently-abled were no exception. In an environment peopled by a bunch of versatile opponents in the art of vituperation was Charlie, his deaf and dumb play-mate. Charlie could lip-read and expressed himself quite effectively with hand signs to make his point.

Despite his deficiency in hearing and unable to mouth the spoken word he could out-cuss the best of them in the same offensive faculty with dramatically communicative mouth and hand gestures.

After one such episode following his gesticulated hurling of vile imprecations at a whole bunch of his mates Kingco appeared more curious than offended. He came home and posed the pertinent question: "Does his mother ever wash his filthy hands out with soap?"

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