Diapers are a fact of parenting life, a fact that requires buying, changing, inspecting, disposing and/or washing. The task of soiling is safely delegated to the next generation.
For parents, there is little about diapers that is academic or hypothetical. But out beyond the crib, the word “diaper” manages to swaddle some surprising and metaphorical topics, in ways that may amuse word-liking kid-havers. Perhaps these linguistic Pampers will distract from the unsweet stench of the real thing.
These dragons won’t be found in many fairy tales, unless by “fairy tale” you mean “gross book of blood-sucking parasites.” The Dictionary of American English lists this term as a Pennsylvania synonym for lice. Many nicknames for the lowly louse have been coined over the years – cooties, creepers, crawlers, graybacks, licelings, nits and totos – but none are as flattering to the tiny terrors as diaper dragons. Besides giving a needed boost to lice self-esteem, the term allows a wielder of anti-lice shampoo to feel, for a shining moment, like a dragon slayer.
Along with P.T.P. (prime time player) and dipsy-doo dunk-a-roo, this is a term popularized by preposterously over-caffeinated basketball announcer Dick Vitale for an impressive freshman player. This expression only indicates youth, as Mr. Vitale is wowed by rebounds and defense, not nappies and incontinence.
There wasn’t a lot of humor provided by reptilian Don Imus’ 2007 slur of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as nappy-headed hos, but the ugly hooha did lead to some unintentionally wacko translations of that insult. On Language Log, Reinhold Aman did a round-up of the translation follies, which included “diaper-headed whores” in Swedish and “whores with diapers on their heads” in Italian. Either “nappy” is a word that doesn’t travel well or sex work has taken some odd turns overseas.
take to the diaper
This term for filibustering is doubly appropriate. On the one immature hand, a filibuster is a bratty, premeditated soliloquy from hell that is more infantile than senatorial. On the other, the potentially fearsome length of a filibuster makes diaper-donning a rather prudent precaution, even for the most suave and toilet-trained of our public servants.
Few would want to encounter food and Pampers in the same noun phrase, but language isn’t always the prettiest girl at the ball. A meat diaper is that absorbent pad inside a package of meat that acts as a buffer between dead animals and immortal styrofoam. This description, courtesy of Grant Barrett’s wonderful Double-tongued Dictionary site, shows the term in action: “OH I forgot!! MEAT DIAPERS!!!! She [the dog] LOVES to dig in the kitchen trash for those!!”
red diaper baby
This is not a form of diaper rash – unless your ass is allergic to Communism. “Red diaper baby,” used since at least 1965, first meant the child of Communists and later broadened to mean the younguns of any liberal, radical or hippie-type parental units. Given the explosion of “green” in our enviro-national eco-consciousness, the seldom-used “green diaper baby” might be primed for success.
But if by now the word “diaper” is giving you a brain rash that no talcum powder can relieve, here’s a refreshingly vague synonym that lacks the dreaded D-word: maximum absorbency garment (MAG). Astronauts use MAGs on their long journeys into the far reaches of space or lunacy, but I doubt they’ll mind if you borrow the term. After all, who’s more on the final frontier than a parent?
Have you spotted the word “diaper” in any unlikely places, far from your child’s bottom? Let us know in comments.