Thursday, 3 March 2011

Out of the mouths of babes....

Before I came to the States, one of my worries about the Littleboys would be that they would pick up American accents which would take years to wear off.

Funnily enough, this no longer bothers me. So what if they sound like little Yankees when we return to London; if they pronounce bath as 'bay-yeth' and fast and 'fay-ast'. In a way I think I'd prefer that to either a Sarf London accent (which they'd have picked up if they had gone to the local school) or sounding like a mini Hooray Henry (if we'd gone private, perhaps...).

However, it has been dawning on me recently that there are certain expressions here that, while they seem perfectly acceptable in America, would not go down well in a British school.

For example: we've been given a book to read by Littleboy 1's school. It's a book that the whole school is supposed to read, two chapters a day, to encourage a love of reading, and of course, I'm all in favour of that - although I do think that a chapter book that appeals to 8 year olds is a little over the head of a five year old who can't even read yet. But, still. We started reading it yesterday and in the first chapter, was the sentence: "What a bummer!"

Reader, I missed it out. I do not want my five year old going around saying 'bummer' - which I am sure he would find hilarious. Sure, he's bound to pick up such expressions as time goes on, and I know it's not exactly a swear word (or curse word, as they would say here). But I don't want it to be from a book - surely that would sanction it as being something that's absolutely fine to say? And it's not the first time we've had that in a book - it was there in another kids' story, which he brought home from the school library.

The other one is 'butt'. Now I may be wrong, but isn't 'butt' perceived as pretty crude in the UK? (Personally it makes me think of Beavis and Butthead- ugh). I don't know what small children should call bottoms in England - bottoms, I think is probably the best - I'm not sure I'd even be comfortable with bum till they are a little bit older, and definitely, arse can wait until later. But here in the States, butt appears to be a perfectly normal word, used by teachers, gym instructors and everyone else. Consequently, Littleboy 1 always now refers to 'my butt' (usually with weird kind of gyratory actions) and also, annoyingly, seems to have picked up the expression 'butthead'. Again, I really don't know how this would go down back in England, especially at school........ so I keep telling him to stop using the word, and have even tried to explain the differences between here and there. (Sadly I think the horse may have bolted on this one...)

So tell me, should I just chill out? After all, my own language isn't exactly perfect, and I don't object to adults or older children saying these words. Am I over-reacting, and should I just let it lie......or accept that it's, well, a bummer?

26 comments:

Iota said...

Bummer isn't nice, but I'm afraid butt is ubiquitous and unavoidable.

It's funny how you relax on the accent issue as time goes by (needs must, perhaps), but you can be sure all your friends in England will keep the issue alive for you when you visit. They will feel the pain on your behalf. I can't tell you how often people have said to me "they'll lose it very quickly when you come back" - and just assume that I would want that.

Fourdownmumtogo said...

It's still a bum bum to my boys. Was weird to hear the boys with American accents, but things could be worse you could have gone to Sarfend and made them little Essix boys...

Conuly said...

I do think that a chapter book that appeals to 8 year olds is a little over the head of a five year old who can't even read yet.

It could be worse. My niece's school keeps sending home these sappy, moralizing picture books. It's all about love and forgiveness and hugs and poetry, and a little of that is great - but can we get a STORY sometime? Something INTERESTING?

Can't help you with the accent, given that it's my own accent :) but, again, it could be worse. For some reason I've yet to figure out, all the kindergarten teachers (and maybe the others as well) at my nieces' school say "zipper" for "zip". As in "zipper up your coat". I've lived in this neighborhood for the past 18 years, I've lived in this city my entire life, and this is the first I've ever heard that - but they do it all the time!

You know, because it's... uh... all about me in some random way. I'm sorry.

Sherilyn -The Dominee Huisvrouw said...

I think it's one of the joys of being a parent that you get to teach your kids what is acceptable to say & what isn't. We teach our kids to say 'bum', & we're teaching them that 'oh my gosh' isn't nice & there are other alternatives they can say instead like 'wow'.

Otherwise you'll run into the problem of not knowing where to draw the line in the other direction, do you let them say 'crap' & if so, what about s#!t? I think language is one of the things that it's better to be more conservative than too lenient with

Sonya said...

When my girls were little (in Canada) they would not say butt as it is considered pretty rude - especially from a child. We do use bum, though. Usually "sit on your bum, please" when trying to prevent standing on chairs, etc. We would use bottom as well, though.

Home Office Mum said...

the issue we have is with the word fart. When I was a child, fart was very rude. But these days it's seems the norm. When I hear my kids say it I wince, but then again, if they said that they had done a 'flabby woof' like we use to do, I don't think I could keep a straight face.

Incidentally, my verification word is blenis, maybe a bland word for penis?

Nota Bene said...

In Blighty, we're fairly relaxed aren't we? It's the French that get all uppity about linguistics...

Iota said...

"Blenis"?! That's a great word, Home Office Mum. I agree that fart has got de-rudified. There are kids books about farts these days. (Walter the Farting Dog is a great one.) In my childhood, it was a "pop-off".

NVG, I've been thinking about this, and I've concluded it's all to do with the current political leader. "What a bummer!" has been rendered less of a rude word than it used to be, because our ears have got used to Obama. We probably hear it, at some sub-conscious level, as "What Obama!"

Think about it. You wouldn't want to be the mom shouting across the playground "Don't say a bummer. It's a bad word!" would you?

Kit said...

I think you can draw a line about what words you allow them to use at home and keep it to words that will be acceptable when you go back to the UK. They will soon learn to distinguish between what's OK at Home and what's OK at school in America and hopefully adapt again later - kids are better at being bilingual that we are!

Ours pick up dreadful (to us) expressions at school and we let them know what is and isn't OK to use with us. At the same time if they pick up an expression or swear word from a movie that wouldn't go down well here - now they are watching some older children/family movies, we tell them not to use it around their teachers. So far it seems to have worked. They are a bit older han yours - the youngest is 8 now.

Muddling Along said...

I worked for Americans for a few years back and we were definitely divided by a common language

I'd not worry about it now and deal with it when you get back - they'll absorb it all on their return and its probably not a big deal in the greater scheme of things

Rhiannon said...

Nappy - I'm completely with you on this. Butt is a horrid, horrid word - I can hardly bring myself to write it. It isn't that it is a "swear" word - I usually sound like a fisherman on shoreleave at the best of times - it just sounds wrong.
I have had to ask my 5 and 3 year olds not to use as it fills me with such horror. Along with poopy and potty. I can never tell if they are talking about going to a party or the bathroom with those two - it has causes much confusion.
But don't worry too much about the accent - they can switch so easily when exposed to both accents! Lord - rereading this I think I may have psycological issues with bodily functions! Who knew.
Rhiannon

Metropolitan Mum said...

Bummer isn't an ok word? Bummer! Oops.

Sorry, I am a bit at a loss here. Bloody foreigners... ;)

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - I'm sure you're right. However, I shall just ignore them...

Fourdown - and we both know what that's like, dont' we? :-)

Conuly - I find zipper quite weird too - we only say zip in the UK. Sappy books sound dreadful - LB1's reading book is quite good, apart from the bummer business.

Sherilyn - I agree - it's hard when you can't control what they pick up though. My boys have started saying 'what in the heck?' as all the kids round here seem to say it. Again, sounds bad to me coming from a small child.

Sonya - I think bum has become much more accepted. My grandmother would never have said it and even my Mum was much more likely to have referred to bottom or even 'behind'.

nappy valley girl said...

HOM - I am sniggering about the flabby woofs. That's a new one. Fart does seem to have become acceptable, although I know what you mean. But there does seem to be a lack of good alternatives...

NB - vous pensez, Monsieur? But would you like to hear a three year old say 'what a bummer!'?

Iota - Like the theory (Although in some parts of the US, sadly, Obama probably is a dirty word....)

Kit - sound advice. It's hard getting the message across that some things aren't acceptable at school when they are five, but hopefully it will come...

nappy valley girl said...

Muddling Along - sure you're right; when it comes to the horrors of moving back that will be very low down my list of worries....

Rhiannon - so glad you agree! (I find the whole potty thing quite strange here. Mums telling their 5 year olds to 'go potty' - what's that about?!)

Met Mum - Oh, it would be fine coming from you. But from your angelic daughter? I think I would be shocked....

geekymummy said...

INteresting dilema!

My kids are not supposed to say "butt" at preschool, but they do say it at home. My Daughter likes to say "booty butt", wiggle hers then run away laughing hilariously. Given that I also laugh at this performance I'm hardly discouraging it!

At preschool they say "behind" of "bottom". I however do say "bum", and "bummer" around the kids, guess I'm not very refined!

Adult Americans are very polite, generally. I used to swear a lot, as is the norm in research labs around the UK and was met with horror when I used the same expletives over here.

Lynn said...

Bummer doesn't have anything to do with bottoms, in case that's why you're objecting to it. It began as an old hippy term, "man, that acid was bad, I had a bum trip". To which you would respond, "Bummer, man!" And gradually it worked its way into the mainstream and lost its hippy dippy druggie connotations.

Don't know if that makes it any more acceptable to you!

nappy valley girl said...

Geekymummy - believe me, I'm not refined either (you're speaking to someone who absolutely loves South Park: The Movie, one of the foulest-mouthed films ever made). It's just something about it coming from small children - I think I just want to keep them really innocent.....

Lynn - I didn't know that, so thanks for enlightening me! However, not sure thinking about bad acid trips makes me feel any better about my children saying it :-). I think it's just that it seems too adult a word for them....

Wylye Girl said...

When we lived in France we were sitting in a cafe one June looking at the pouring rain. My then 6 year old daughter exclaimed loudly 'il pleut comme les vaches qui pissent' which translates as 'it's raining like pissing cows'. Great!

Expat mum said...

After 18 years of child-rearing I've all but given up - especially as the teachers use words like "butt" and "fart" as you say.
The word I really don't like is actually used more in the UK - "poo" instead of "number 2". I don't know - it's just a bit sudden for me!

nappy valley girl said...

Wylye girl - that sounds quite eloquent actually...!

Expat Mum - I don't really mind poo - although, here of course it's always 'poop'. In fact 'poopy head' was the boys' favourite insult before 'butthead' came along...oh dear.

mtff said...

Bummer? I don't mind that so much, but Six keeps on referring to ber BOOTY. I find this quite disturbing. Also, I HATE it when the teacher tells them to sit on their fanny. GAH

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

I must admit I didn't realise 'bummer' was so bad. I am really uncomfortable with 'fart' said in public, though. Butt? It was slightly less lady like to say that when I was growing up--bottom or backside were preferred but it wasn't horrible. Fascinating reading these comments!!

All I keep thinking about now is Bart Simpson's little ditty: 'Lisa is a nut. She has a rubber butt. Every time she turns around it goes putt putt.'

Just thought I'd share ;)

Uly said...

Iota, I don't think that's the case at all. That scenario requires "bummer" to be considered a bad word until Obama became well-known... so until the past three or four years or so.

But I heard it said as a child, and I never once heard an adult chastise a kid for it, or avoid saying it to or around a kid, and I would have been surprised if anybody DID object to it on the grounds that it's "bad language". Maybe if a parent told us it was slang or that it showed a bad attitude, that would make sense, but bad language? No, never.

I'm pretty sure I even saw it as a kid in TV shows and books aimed at children - which more or less indicates that it was acceptable before I was even old enough to vote for president!

PantsWithNames said...

We had 3 years in the States as kids, full on American accents and the works.

Took us 2 days to lose the accent, the lingo and the language when we got back into an English school...

PS - I'm ignoring all bad language from my 2 at the moment... we are having a really fun phase right now.

Noble Savage said...

I have NEVER heard anyone even hint that the word 'bummer' is considered rude in any way, shape or form. And what's wrong with 'oh my gosh'?!

Really giggling over here at the thought of so many Brits horrified by our crass American words. :-D