Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lost in Translation

I know that I do go on about how charming I find YuYu, my DD#3 in acronymland, to be. I find everything about her to be, objectively speaking, adorable. I don’t get aggravated when I ask her to go see if we have any more milk in the downstairs refrigerator (necessitated by the 1950’s size fridge nook in the upstairs kitchen) and she comes back up, hands empty, and says “yes.” I don’t get too upset when I go through her assignment folder and find finished homework packets that should have been turned in weeks ago but she “forgot to remember.” I have vast patience for her new developmental phase where she has to ask me to choose between two impossible and/or unlikely events: “Mom, would you rather step in goat’s milk or vinegar? Which would you rather lose an arm or a leg? If you were a dog, which would you prefer, Booda bones or jerky treats?” etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. All cute, all good, all adorable, classic YuYu, I'm so excited to know the adult she will become, she is really something. Objectively speaking, of course.

So one of the things I like best about YuYu is her “good ear.” Most people wouldn’t consider a good ear (and I just don’t have a better shorthand way to describe that she can carry a tune, so good ear it is) to be particularly remarkable, but I do, I really do. I come from a family with a deep genetic legacy for ears of the tin variety. We, my parents and all my brothers, lack the ability to carry a tune in a bucket, or as the French would say, we sing like casseroles. And even though the genetic link is missing, my other three DDs will sadly carry this family trait forward into future generations, but not YuYu. YuYu of the lilting voice will sing for us all, or not, because she’s so shy about it. Don’t’ misunderstand, YuYu is not shy socially, but no way no how is she going to sing in front of people by herself, not on her life, isn’t going to happen, mores’ the pity.

But I give you this background only to illustrate her current use of her talent. Her good ear gives YuYu the ability to memorize and repeat movie dialogue verbatim and with the right accents. And don’t you know, her knack for listening and regurgitating is a cool parlor trick and can be hugely entertaining on long road trips. However, her newest source of material has made me more aware that I have to start being a lot more careful about what she ingests and spews back out. She is starting to use this talent to entertain friends and non-family members and certain words of which she has no understanding of the meaning are creeping into her vocabulary and it might not reflect well on my parenting.

And by certain words, I mean “bollocks.” The first couple of times she used it, and appropriately I might add, I just hooted. Hearing my 8-year-old American kid saying bollocks, a British curse word, it was funny, I just thought it was funny. She watched “Mama Mia” a zillion times during the Christmas holiday and memorized all the words to all the ABBA tunes and flits around the house singing “money money money, it’s a rich man’s world.” She also picked up the word bollocks from the Colin Firth (yummm, Colin Firth) character who exclaims “Bollocks!” in fine BBC English when he misses the ferry to the island. I should be happy because the Pierce Brosnan character exclaims a word that is universally renounced as a bad potty word and she didn’t pick that one up, thank the fates.

But here in the Western United States, at least as far as I know, we don’t so much know from bollocks, so I have just let her use it for my own perverse pleasure because I think it is cute and not too many other people know what the word means. Can it be a curse word if no one knows the meaning? I say no. But this morning, we were hustling around, cleaning up and getting ready for Ellie’s sleepover friend to leave with her mom and YuYu dropped her box of many toy horses, the pieces scattered and YuYu exclaimed “Bollocks.” The word did not seem to resonate with the mom who was here to pick up the sleepover friend, or at least she showed no reaction which could have just been gracious good manners, which would have been different from me if I heard someone’s kid say bollocks, but it made me think.

I fired up the computer, went straight to the definitive source (she typed facetiously in reference to folks (okay, my mother) that don’t understand that Wikipedia isn’t a reliable and irrefutable source of information) and found out that the “relative severity of the various profanities, as perceived by the British public, was studied on behalf of the Broadcasting Standards Commission, Independent Television Commission, BBC and Advertising Standards Authority. The results of this jointly commissioned research were published in December 2000 in a paper called "Delete Expletives?". This placed "bollocks" in eighth position in terms of its perceived severity, between "prick" (seventh place) and "arsehole" (ninth place). By comparison, the word "balls" (which has a similar literal meaning) was down in 22nd place. Of the people surveyed, only 11% thought that "bollocks" could acceptably be broadcast at times before the notional 9pm "watershed” on television (radio does not have a watershed).”

Oh, well, now that I am educated about the relative severity of profanity (I love that phrase) and since I wouldn’t let my kids say either of the other swear words that bookend bollocks on the BBC list of bad words, it looks like I better weed bollocks out of YuYu’s vocabulary before her potty mouth spreads and she starts sounding like a British sailor, assuming that British sailors still curse as badly and richly as the stereotype would lead us to believe. Now I just have to figure out if I was bird, would I rather land on a branch or a telephone wire and if I missed either perch and crashed into a wall, would I say bollocks or balls?

(I had to add this photo of YuYube, the bruise on her chin? otherwise preoccupied, she walked into a wall, the blood blister on the inside of her lip was huge, HUGE, that's my girl)


Denise said...

Literally laughing out loud. I love it and what I love most is the way you tell the story. I have recently tried to stop using inappropriate terms/phrases around the girls for this exact reason, I think I'm a little late because sweet little Kimball finishes the sentances for me as if I have forgotten how the phrase goes...

Anonymous said...

I had to train my kids that some words were "inside our house" words and others could be used anywhere.... BTW, bollocks is mild compared to what MY kids picked up from me!

Grandma Jean

Rebecca said...

On the plus side - a good ear could mean an ear for languages. Callista is in the midst of picking up her 3rd language (spanish). She has retained her mandarin to a large extent and doing phenomonenally well at learning english. Now that her ELL teacher speaks to the boy in her class (there are only the two of them) in spanish she is now coming home speaking spanish phrases.

Oh and she sings like a dream. But bou she sure does like to say poop nuggets a lot.