• Betsy Singleton Snyder

Potty Mouth


It is not uncommon to hear dirty talk at our house, impolite words in the confines of family that I might tag as verbal shoving.

Or, it could be sibling trash talk.

We have four boys who regularly throw out, “poopy head,” “doo-doo,” “pee pee,” “butt-head,” “whizzpopper” (thanks, Roald Dahl), “boogies” and “bloody hell,” (thanks, J.K. Rowling). The quite pleasurable and useful retort, “fart face,” appears when one is highly frustrated.

One of the most creative terms my boys have ever latched onto came with the introduction of a nickname for their privates: “the funny papers.” Let me use it in a sentence: “Whoa, that sand at the beach really scratched up my funny papers!”

No idea where this saucy epigram originated, and maybe I don’t want to. Can you see MIchelangelo asking his clothed-less model for the famous sculpture, David, to turn those “funny papers” toward the light.

My kids’ made-up phrase about parts that shall not be named aloud, always and forever, will make me smile, even when I’ve got crumbs stuck to my bib, and have forgotten my own name. Please, dear grown-up children, I urge you, whisper some silliness in my hearing-aids every time you bring me an Ensure: Hey Mom, remember the funny papers?

Properly executed, semi-naughty words of young children feel like biting into a mint leaf in an iced tea, refreshing and lively, particularly when contrasted with the coarsened culture in which we live. One of the greatest wonders of childhood creativity is the ability of the untamed youngling to show us smarty-pants adults how grand it is to create without shame, whether it is a hand-drawn, hot pink grouping of tree leaves, or Legos that look nothing like the kit on the box. Childhood day dreams include making words, good words, hard words, soft words, and pretzel words, that twist and turn.

I can handle classic phrases like “poopy head” and wrap my arms around “whizzpopper,” but I desperately want to put off hearing any yuck that emerges from big people's crudeness and comes out of my children.

Not long ago, my oldest son was practicing a sport. He wanted to mess with his friend, so he playfully kicked a ball the same friend was trying to pick up. One of his younger coaches called him a “d…k.” Both boys told the coach that he had used a cuss word. The coach disagreed. He looked the word up online using his phone, then smart guy offered them an entire list of synonyms, out loud. Mr. Coach Man, I’m hardly a prude, but you need a bar of soap, and you don’t sound cute or funny or shocking. Neither has my son taken up these words because what he learned from you was not a bunch nasty words, but an adult way of behaving which was repulsive to him. Coarseness, harshness. It rubs your ears and heart the wrong way.

It is true that, on occasion, I do cuss like a jaded adult, hopefully, under my breath, or, in private as I describe to my husband an absolutely, infuriating situation of injustice, a frustration with some person’s inexcusable bad behavior, or my own personal flabbergastations. Yes, I meant to write, "flabbergastations" because this word is funner and more creative than anything I could pull from earthy Urban Dictionary.

What I don’t write is a rant on Twitter, or Facebook, or texts, like some so-called recently famous grown-ups who pull down their tinted sunglasses from the top of their slicked back head of hair, and spew crass, crude, bawdy words like a shaken cola.

Jesus himself used strong language, biting phrases, offensive words, mainly to the ears of people in high places, but his teachings were meant to expose the strange emperors of his own day who wore no clothes, no credibility, and yet were feted by those too silly and ignorant to talk back in ways that creatively exposed the truth that is hard to hear.

Jesus also once told his disciples that it’s not what you put into your mouth that is unclean, but what comes out of it. (Matthew 15:11)

American discourse has sunk lower than I’ve ever seen it. I had to admit it the day the same oldest son, only eleven, walked into the den, and saw an unquotable quote on the TV screen by someone chosen to lead high-level conversations.

My son said, “Who talks like that?”

Shucks. It’s so dang frustrating to hear your son sound like a grown-up.

#pottymouth #language #publicdiscourse

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