Why sometimes the right words feel very wrong

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RICK JACKSON: Girl power rules – at the age of two

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As we sat having a chat over a cup of tea my son, who isn’t always the most careful with his knees and elbows, accidentally caught his dad in the private area.

With that pained grimace that men get on such an occasion (and that has us woman tutting under our breath saying ‘you wanna try having a baby and see how much it hurts!’) he groaned to our son ‘you hit me right in the Julies’!

‘Julies?!’ I said puzzled, completely ignoring his pain, ‘you can’t call them Julies. What if there’s a girl at school called Julie?’

‘Well, what am I supposed to call them?’ he said through gritted teeth, still in distress. ‘nuts? marbles? nuggets?’

‘How about testicles?’ I said plainly, to a look of further horror.

‘He can’t say words like that at school,’ he said, as if I had just uttered the most ridiculous thing ever spoken by a woman, ‘there’ll be all sorts of trouble!’

I admit that considering our utmost reserved British attitude to just about everything, some issues could arise from a small child spouting the actual biological terms for body parts in the school playground – but it did have me wondering, why?

So when a few days later said son started quizzing me about my lack of male genitalia and insisted on knowing what I had in its place, I found myself lost for words.

What I also noticed was my slightly uncomfortable reaction to the question – let’s call it my underlying Englishness – which I would say came partly from my own fairly reserved upbringing and partly from me simply not knowing the right words to use.

Why do we feel the need to come up with ridiculous words to describe body parts anyway?

Even as adults, we seem to have this dormant urge to turn into giggling, sniggering teenagers when met with a conversation about our own genitalia or bodily functions.

But if you look at it logically, a new word to a child has absolutely no connotation.

But – and here lies the real reason – we don’t actually want to hear our children using words like scrotum and excrement because on some level – an illogical one – real words seem way too matter- of-fact and at odds with our perception of them as our sweet and innocent children.

So in part it’s our own irrational feelings about these words that cause us not to teach them to our children and instead come up with silly words to ease ourselves into their knowledge of the real world – poopoo, willy, weewee and winky (my favourite one I heard recently was manjigglies).

Yet by doing that, we are recreating the taboo and breeding yet another generation of people who will feel uncomfortable talking about their bodies.

I’m not saying that the use of words is the sole cause of our discomfort with discussing of our ‘private parts’, nor am I likely to stop using silly names myself anytime soon.

I’m just saying.