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Chosen words

entertainment Updated: Mar 30, 2009 15:54 IST
Arif Zakaria

The words sounded like the opening lines of a gangster rap! I couldn’t decipher them, which was odd, because since his speech has gained clarity, I’m all ears, waiting for them to stumble out of his tiny mouth.

I expected him to give the words a royal entry, perhaps in the middle of his alphabet class, or in front of elders at a family function. By the way, the words in question aren’t heroic; they don’t inspire or indicate wisdom, or even anything positive.

In fact, the dictionary defines ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’ and ‘bloody’ as someone who lacks common sense; a dim-witted human. And of course, ‘bloody’ means bloody. Period.

Now before you get lost in my word maze, let me admit that my son, Aimaan, almost three now, uttered his very first expletive yesterday. His fluency with words like, ‘mad’, ‘shut up’ and ‘paagal’ was indicative of a readiness for the next level.

So the next set of words came forth without fanfare recently. I prevented him from undertaking a risky maneuver on the swing, and prompt came the swear words, “Toopit, idat, bloody!”

Strangely, other concerns crowded my mind. For instance, whoever gifted him these words must have a poor grasp of English, because he got the sequence wrong! Bloody is the opening salvo, the entrée, after which the main swear words are always served — bloody fool, bloody hell.

Drunken stupor
But then full marks for his honesty here. I do appear dim-witted on occasions. Since my child is a window to my personality, I wonder if I appear as a crude and obnoxious father, although my friends, the sultans of swear words, console me by saying that ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot’ are not abusive words but merely colloquial English!

Why, I recall uncle Allan, my neighbour, who in a drunken stupor at nights, would tell his wife, “I love you, you bloody, stupid idiot.” But my real fear is these are just soft opening notes and the volley of swears words will follow soon! As a parent, I take great pains to sugarcoat my language with ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’. So I wonder what’s prompted him to get started on cuss words!

Perhaps the attention the words attract! It’s like a mischievous inner voice tells him that to be taken seriously, you have to start swearing!

Cuss words
Now, children are exposed to a medley of tongues belonging to maids, urchins and older bullies who are encyclopedias of swear words and dialogue taken from movies.

Why, they pick it up from parents as well, who, at times, have a penchant for throwing profanities at each other. How do I counter this?

My instincts tell me that if I keep reprimanding him, he will make it a dare and extract immense joy from using these words. Isn’t the forbidden fruit always desirable?

The trick is to keep quiet the next time he swears, let the verbal storm pass, and slowly the words will die a natural death. Later, when he thinks it’s so cool to swear then no power on earth can stop his tongue.

But now I’m afraid to introduce him to anyone for he might bestow upon him or her, his chosen words in the right order. Or one fine morning, thanks to his alphabet class, re arrange the words on his favourite T- shirt, which says ‘FCUK’.