When our son began grasping language, my wife and I set upon the arduous journey of cleaning up our own. We vowed to stop swearing around him. Shortly after, we also vowed to cut down on the amount of sexual innuendo peppered throughout our conversations. Up until my son was about a year old, we were a real “that’s what she said” sort of couple. We could make just about any statement into a euphemism. We figured if we didn’t nip it in the bud (see, even that sounds dirty to me), our son would one day catch onto our meaning and discover that he had two pervy parents. Not good. So, we stopped. For the most part.
One thing we stopped was our pronunciation of words in a way that made them sound dirty. For example, Cape Cod always lent itself to many reinterpretations or mispronunciations of town names. Of course Assonet, MA (pronounced a-su-net) became Ass-on-it, MA. Falmouth became Foul-Mouth and Yarmouth became Your-Mouth. While not too dirty, one of our favorite Cop Cod lines became “Yar Mouth is a Foul Mouth” (growled in a pirate accent).
While most of our offensive language has dwindled away, remnants of the our tendency to mispronounce remain. The other day, we were driving past a store called “Imagine” and my wife pronounced it “I’m a jie-nee”. I laughed, and we kept driving.
“What did you say?” my son asked.
“Oh nothing,” I replied, “mom’s just being goofy.”
“Because I thought you said vagina,” he said.
My wife and I busted up in the front seat. I was nearly in tears. We had been found out, and by a 6-year-old! I was laughing so hard because we were deluded enough to think that our 6-year-old boy wouldn’t have the skills or even the curiosity to crack our code, but he did.
I realized I can’t make assumptions about what he does and doesn’t know, and that he’s like a sponge, absorbing every ounce of linguistic knowledge that swirls around him at home, in school, or in the car. He’s a bright kid, and he’s always listening.
Like I’ve written in the past, I can’t wait to be called to the principal’s office.