Just a thought… Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. [Robert Fulghum]
Welcome in and thanks for coming by. I hope you had a gentle weekend. Perhaps you, too, are now Christmas tree-free after un-decking the halls…although it will be months before the last bits of glitter have been sucked up.
Ah, sucked. There’s a word that brings me to the topic of today’s journal: the danger of words and being overheard.
There was a time when, about 25 years ago, the term “sucks” entered the lexicon in a huge way. Of course, it had always been around, but “you suck,” “that sucks” and so on hit me all the wrong ways as a broadcaster. Sucking, to me, had a sexual connotation. And at that time (remember, this was decades ago) it was something I wasn’t going to say on the air. I held myself to a higher standard. Ha!
Here we are in 2022. The PM says it. Everybody says it. Because, well, how else do you describe being locked down for two years? It DOES suck. (But I’m still uneasy with the word. You can take the girl out of Catholic school….)
Our language is not an easy one to navigate and when you add a layer of bureaucracy or another mother tongue altogether, it gets even murkier. Rob and I laughed ’til we were in tears when our 96-year-old friend Mira told us about being in a government office and trying to get some official documents – passport or something – updated. She was born in a country that no longer exists: Yugoslavia, which completed its breakup in 1992. She was trying in her best English to explain to the woman what she should type in under Country of Birth. And the woman kept telling Mira that there was no Yugoslavia. So, having come to the end of her rope, Mira said to her, “Why don’t you write F-U?”
Now, Mira, in whose mouth butter wouldn’t melt, did not mean that the way we know F-U to mean. She was saying “former Yugoslavia.” But this sweet little old lady coming out with that must have had the whole office in stitches. It is, I will tell you, a story that Mira loves to share. Because she has since been told exactly what her words meant.
You don’t have to tell me, as a former broadcaster, that since you can’t be sure what is being heard, you do have to be extra careful. Like a day last week when Colin was afforded a bonus sleepover because of school closure.
I was in the living room with Rob, seven-year-old Colin in an adjacent bedroom that we’ve turned into the kids’ play room, complete with TV, Wii, a ball pit, the whole nine. Rob and I were talking about how ridiculous it is that people who have been exposed to others who’ve tested positive for Covid were gathering for the holidays and then going off merrily to work. I said (in what I thought was under my breath), “It’s so effing stupid!”
Except I didn’t say effing. Well, apparently Colin wasn’t as absorbed in his Lego superheroes TV show as we thought. We hear this shout from the next room: “Grrrrrrama! What word did you just say?”
And I thought, Uh-oh. Here we go. I’m teaching him the bad words, just as we inadvertently did with Lauren (it’s in the book and is a pretty good laugh).
So I sheepishly answered, “Uh….’stupid’?”
And he came out, hands on hips and said, “You said it AGAIN!”
Yep. Next time I won’t be so effing s—-d. I mean, those are words kids are meant to learn in the schoolyard, not at Casa Banana.
Good thing he wasn’t with us Saturday night for the Leafs’ game. Have a good one, and we’ll talk to you here on Thursday.