It IS A Bad Word, God Dammit

by anna on February 24, 2010

This morning I had to warn the preschool teacher about Mini’s swearing problem.

This was a preemptive strike. I had hoped that the time that Mini repeated what I said in a moment of frustration had been just a one time thing, just a kind of slip-up. But as time has passed, it’s become clear that, though Mini might not be planning on swearing all of the time, it is something that could happen. And since I can no longer be certain that Mini won’t, in a fit of sandbox-induced rage, try out his new phrase on a classmate, I thought I might earn some points by giving them a heads up.

This was particularly odd conversation to be having, too, when you consider the fact that I don’t really, earnestly, believe this particular expression to be a bad word. For one thing, it’s two words, but that’s splitting hairs — and even still, it doesn’t even rank on the scale of phrases that are likely to offend me, even if it seems, I don’t know, a little trashy to have my two-year-old saying it.

And let’s be honest, it’s also pretty fucking funny to hear him say it.

In fact, Mr. Right-Click has taken to inciting Mini to say it, just for the joy of hearing it come out of a two-year-old’s mouth. Like this morning, when Mini was playing around with the closet door, and telling me to get out of the way, Mr. Right-Click says, “Get out of my way, Mommy, GOD DAMMIT!” and then Mini says, “Get out of my way, God DAMMIT!

The mother in me strictly believes that teaching him this stuff is wrong. But the comedian in me thinks it is kind of funny, and who cares? anyway, if it’s not even a real swear word. But then I think, “We cannot have a two year old going to school and saying this, right?”

So I’m torn. God DAMMIT.

The preschool teacher told me that this was not unusual, that she had heard it all. And then she told me about a kid who used to mispronounce the word “truck” because of his two-year-old pronunciation quirks, mixing up the tr- sound with the f-sound. And that his mother had been mortified, and had warned them, just in case he came to school demanding to play with his “FUCK!”

I said, “Yeah, this is not a mispronunciation. This is correct usage. On multiple occasions. And I know he learned it from me.”

She still said it was no big deal. That one time she had a kid who told her, “My Mommy says, ‘Fuck!’ But I’m not allowed to say it. It’s a bad word — Fuck is a bad word. I cannot say Fuck.” So that the kid, at final count, had managed to say the word three times in the process of explaining about how only adults can say “Fuck.”

And I said, yeah. Well anyway.

Because I didn’t want to get into a philosophical discussion with her about this, that there was pretty much a consensus that “fuck” was a word we should agree not to teach our kids to say at school, whereas God DAMMIT was a little bit of a grey area, given the fact that Mr. Right-Click is an athiest and I am an agnostic, and the phrase has no religious significance to us, or probably to most of the kids at Mini’s preschool, given the makeup of the school’s population.

But that we also know that there are certain people for whom this particular expression might in fact be very offensive, and that perhaps society asked of us to take those people into consideration when we think about what is funny to teach our kids, even if it first happened by accident, and even if we don’t see what the big goddamn deal about it is.

But then, I thought, fuck it.

{ 12 comments }

Michele February 24, 2010 at 4:39 am

God dammit and fuck are totally appropriate responses to certain situations. It is just our responsibility as parents to teach our children which situations those are. That being said, it is a fucking complete pain in the ass to do it, god dammit. :-)

anna February 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

That’s true, what’s most important is that they are using it correctly, not the fact that they are using it. LOL.

Kerry February 24, 2010 at 6:50 am

I’m actually more careful with “goddammit” than other swear words. I’m a heathen married to a Catholic, and I live in a place where most everyone goes to church (one of the few things I miss about living in California: religious diversity. Here religious diversity means Lutheran or Catholic). Religious people are more offended by hearing that term from a Known Heathen than from a theist, I’ve found. I’m not a militant heathen at all, so I just use other words. “Fuck” is way better anyway.

My son, who has been way behind on speech development, has suddenly exploded with words. He’s obsessed with this one clock I have, because he got in trouble for trying to touch it (it’s an antique clock that was a wedding gift to my great-grandparents in 1913…so I go apeshit if they try to touch it). He can’t say the “cl” sound yet, so yesterday when he saw me wind the clock, he spent the rest of the day saying, “COCK! COCK! COCK!”

anna February 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

Yes, geography would definitely influence your attitude about these kinds of things. We’re in LA, plus this preschool has kids from a particularly unlikely-to-be-religious demographic. But I’m still hesitant about having him say these kinds of things. The problem is that I’ll be driving, and somebody will cut me off, and then it comes out before I even realize it.

Becca February 24, 2010 at 7:39 am

This is really goddammed funny.

My kid used “holy crap” correctly for a few days when he was two. That was a proud time for me.

anna February 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

Ain’t it the fucking truth?

home and uncool February 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

Thing 2 has uttered the GD a few times. Let’s just say, he has a certain 41-year-old male source …

anna February 24, 2010 at 10:45 am

We’re shaping young minds here, aren’t we?

Becky February 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

Thinking it’s ok to say god dammit because you’re an athiest is like thinking it’s ok to say the n word because you aren’t black. It’s ridiculously offensive to a large percentage of the population.

I say this as an athiest who has learned to modify my curses to fit my living situation (The Bible Belt, for fuck’s sake).

patois February 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

The fact that he uses the phrase correctly is really the important part, right?

eliz February 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I love when kids are smart enough to figure out a way to “licitly” swear, like the story the preschool teacher told you. My nephew did that when he was 5, telling my uncle over and over that fuck was an “example” of a bad word, that he wasn’t actually saying fuck, just using it as an example. I know that day is coming for me, bc Tink’s entering that wise-ass phase where she likes to catch me on technicalities.

I find this fascinating because, despite where I take my daughter for an hour every Sunday, I’ll go to my grave swearing. I just can’t imagine being offended by it, even though I *know* many people are. I’ve heard and read far more offensive things said about religion and religious types than “god damn it.” You’re too delicate to be out in public if that offends you. However. I know I’m being a ginormous hypocrite by raising my daughter within a faith and yet swearing like a longshoreman at home, so I suppose the best I can hope for is to teach her that words like that are only for adults to use and that Mommy will try her best not to say them. For fuck’s sake.

And this is *so* something a hypocrite would do (“If you think I’m bad, wait to you hear what so-and-so says”), but I worry more about Tink hearing her father in the kitchen at the restaurant on busy days. THAT is truly an education in creative cursing and even makes me admonish him on occasion with a “Honey! What the fuck?” He’s managed to impressed even the dishwashers who deal crack on the side.

David July 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

I love to say it because it is the best way to get my point across and get my stress vented fast. It doesn’t offend me or the people I grew up with. It seems to bug Bible thumpers the most. It is only a silly curse word and eveyone seems to freak out when you say it. It simply means God Damn It! No Big Deal! I love God and his son Jesus Christ and I don’t think I will burn in Hell for three little words. They understand I am imperfect and it’s better for me to cuss than kill someone.

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