My daughter and I were watching Project Runway the other evening. It is a far cry from Doc McStuffins or Scooby Doo, but my 6-year-old loves fashion, the idea of sewing and loves watching any kind of “project” show. Like many her age, she is enamored with watching a process and discovering how things are made, and when the outcome is something pretty and chic, all the better. Although there are some fabulous fashions, colorful characters, and a whole lot of creativity on Project Runway, there is also a ton of swearing.
Thankfully the “adult” language is bleeped and there are enough high pitched squeals edited in that highlight that fact. During this past Thursday’s episode, my dear daughter (who just graduated from kindergarten) looked me straight in the eye and asked me a question in a very serious tone.
“So you know what bad word they are saying when they beep them, right?”
My heart stopped. It was one of the many coming of ages moments that I had been dreading. I played along with baited breath, wondering what four-letter word would come out of her mouth. But it wasn’t one I expected.
“They’re saying ‘dumb’ and dumb is a really bad word.”
I gave her a look that was a mix of relief and mocked shock, like she really said a swear word. She looked at me with concern, put her hand on mine.
“But don’t worry mommy I don’t say bad words like that. I just wanted you to know I knew what it was.”
It was so f*%&#ng sweet! Now, I should make a confession. I am not one who swears. Very rarely will I utter an expletive. This is something that came from my own mother, a woman who although was every inch a city girl thought that swear words were not appropriate and made one sound, to use my daughter’s four letter word, “dumb.”
You could call my daughter sheltered, but she has only heard one or two swear words slip from my lips. My husband and I are cautious and careful. Our friends, who are more liberal with their sprinkling of swear words, have uttered them in front of her, but she didn’t seem to notice, perhaps thinking it was just another piece of vernacular she has yet to define like “magnitude” or “nomenclature.” “That’s just language learning. These words have no special status as taboo words,” said Paul Bloom, Ph.D., of Yale University. “Learning they’re taboo words is a later step.”
I’m finding that my daughter, who thinks that the word “dumb” is the worst swear word she knows, is an oddity in our urban terrain. I’ve heard several stories of kindergartners in the playground using the f-word or s-word, a range of vocabulary that is probably used in their homes far more freely than ours. According to recent studies, swearing in the very young is on the rise, thanks to adults. “By the time kids go to school now, they’re saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television,” said Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. “We find their swearing really takes off between (ages) three and four.”
My daughter thinking “dumb” is a “swear word” may be considered old-fashioned but I have to say, I am enjoying every second of this language innocence.
Do you have any issues with the young using swear words?