|Eager to swear, age 3.|
"What does 'Geez, Louise,' mean?" Chach asked me last night during dinner. First I explained the pure pleasure of a phrase that rhymes, then we discussed famous Louises in history (well, just Erdrich), then I tossed out some comparable exclamations -- 'ah, man,' 'oof!' 'holy moly' and 'shucks.'
I asked if she could think of anything similar. She got a coy look.
"Dammits," she said, quietly but confidently. With an S.
Is there anything cuter, any greater comedy, than a kid testing a swear. Answer: Absolutely not.
"Right," I said, keeping it light and airy. "Except that is an adult word. So maybe we would say 'darnit,' instead. Where did you learn that word, anyway?"
Her tiny little pointer finger inched toward me.
"And dad," she added.
Then: "Grandma and Grandpa never say it," she said. "Neither does (the Norwegian Wonder)."
I inserted a little monologue about how some people use only nice words and some people, like her parents apparently, use not-so nice words.
"When can I say that word?" she asked.
"What word?" I coaxed.
I just wanted to hear her say it one more time before it was banned.
She shook her head.
"When you're a grown-up," I told her. "Right around when you're 18."
She looked a bit dejected.
"Or when you're alone and no one is listening," I added. "Not at school, not in front of friends. Maybe just when you're alone in your room, playing with your toys and no one can hear you."
"But you can always hear me," she pointed out.
"That's right," I nodded. "I can always hear you."