“I know a lot of words,” she explained. “Would you like to hear about some others?” She listed several more four-letter words and offered to give the etymology of each one.
I didn’t explain that Dorothy Jr.’s erudition was part of an experiment of mine to see whether knowledge of taboo words could erase their black magic. If my kids learned the story of individual “foul” words, would they seem so foul when it came time to use them?
It’s not that I wanted potty-mouthed offspring. On the contrary, I wanted my kids to rise above foulness. Rather than be shocked or victimized by the crude language the permeates our culture, I wanted them to become connoisseurs of language.