Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The "p-word"

The "p-word"
26 March 2013

Now admittedly, swearing is a rather bad habit.  That’s a given.  Supposedly, it’s also an indicator of a lack of vocabulary and expressive language abilities.

I beg to disagree.  Yes, it’s bad and naughty.  And I most certainly don’t want my kids to indulge in the habit.  Still, it’s just so delightfully fun.  I don’t do lots of it and try and be cautious.  Being careful of the company I keep when I do give in to an occasional bout.  But I have to admit, that loud exclamations of “Testicle!”, are my best.  It is normally not said with any malice.  It is simply an exclamation which can portray frustration, anger, relief, joy, etc.  All depending on the circumstance and the trigger which has led me to exclaim my very favourite swear word.  In fact, I’m not even sure that it is technically a swear word?  Certainly, it is no different than exclaiming “Tentacle!”, yet I somehow don’t seem to love that word as much.  Furthermore, I never envision the male bollock area when I say the word.  Gross!  It is very simply just a word to me.

Now certain of my family members are also given to indulging in the occasional spot of foul language.  In fact, some of them, indulge in more than just a spot.  They actively encourage it.  And have even been able to turn it into a linguistic art form of sorts.  They are able to weave it into any conversation with remarkable aplomb.  And I think that perhaps due to the regularity and familiarity of use, we tend to forget that they are in essence swearing. 

And so I recall an instance when one of my little cousins was only about five or six years old.  My aunt and uncle got a phone call from said cousin’s school.  His pre-school if memory serves.  They were called in to come and see the teacher, because of the inappropriate language that my young cousin had been brandishing about.  My aunt’s obvious first question, after receiving the dreaded call, was “what word did he use?”  Now just imagine her horror, when all the teacher was willing to divulge over the phone was the fact that he had used the “p-word”.

I do believe shock reverberated, like a physical thing.  Many, many absolutely dreadful words could all fall into the “p-word” category.  Most of them pretty awful.  And pretty much all of them referring to genitalia.  As is the habit with most swear words actually.  Why, just take “testicle” for example…..

Family phone calls started.  Exactly which horrid “p-word” did he use?  How bad was the damage?  What were the repercussions going to be?  Would he be expelled?  What damage control would they be able to do?

The inevitable teacher’s meeting ensued, with both my aunt and uncle present.  I do believe they were rather nervous and fearing the outcome of the meeting too.

Furthermore, I imagine, that their relief was huge, once it was divulged, that the dreaded “p-word” was in actual fact only “panty”.  As in little girlie broekies.  Apparently my cousin, said something about a little girl’s panties.  More than likely, she was hanging upside down from a jungle gym, which caused her dress or skirt to hang around her neck, obstructing her view, and her panties to be on display for all the playground to see.  And my cousin’s “insensitive” use of the word, hurt fragile feelings.  And at this school, this sort of behaviour was frowned upon and the “p-word” was deemed to fall in the dodgy and questionable category.  Most likely referred to as bathroom language.  Or as kids call it, “toilet talk”.  But who knows, maybe that phrase is also a dodgy one?

My cousin is all grown up now.  And though his parents still indulge in “toilet talk”, I am happy to report that he does not.  A straighter arrow, you will most likely not find.  He is a natural leader, a brilliant sportsman, strong in academics, and a charismatic person.  He is the captain of his hockey team – the school’s first team of course.  He has been a learner council leader, for four years in High School already.  And this year he is Head Boy of a prestigious school in the Northern Suburbs.  A school that is seen by the Education Department, as a success story and the model that they achieve to duplicate in schools all over the country.  They simply have a formula for success that works.

And nowadays, I bet that when my cousin, indulges in the “p-word”, he is referring to his patience, his wonderful parents, his dedication to perfection in all that he undertakes, his perseverance in completing any task he starts, his pride in his school, two-ply toilet paper (his favourite), his pride in his numerous academic, sporting and cultural achievements he’s had, his many blessings of absolute perfect hair (it’s true – he has really good hair), the periodic table of elements (he used to have science as a subject), his pals, his fellow prefects (as their leader, I believe he leads them well), pink (his father’s favourite colour – love you!), his awesome public speaking and debating skills, his deep and abiding love of pasta, the absolute mountain of projects he gets swamped with, and so the list continues.

In fact, perhaps panty was a better “p-word” after all.

 The dreaded "p-word"


  1. We could not have picked a more positive purrrfectly perfect person on purpose!! Love you proudly and permanently !! x

  2. Ag Helene, one of my favourite family stories - so well told!

  3. Perfectly posted. Proud parent. Xxx