Tonawanda News

December 9, 2013

DOUBLE TROUBLE: The awesome power of words -- sort of

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’m sure this comes as no surprise — look at what I do for a living, after all — but I’m a firm believer in the power of words. Their power to illuminate. To make people feel. To make them think.

And there are relatively few things I want to impress more upon my children — beyond compassion and a good work ethic — than that power. I don’t necessarily want them to go into journalism — rather the opposite — but to understand the good and bad that words can do. To be competent writers and readers. To have decent vocabularies, and like me, to simply love words for words themselves.

And I suppose we’re taking steps there.

In a way.

I’m not a fan of preset gender roles, but this one seems to have to some truth to it. As a mother, cousin, aunt and former little girl myself, I simply haven’t seen a female equivalent to the small-boy fascination for, well, certain words. 

Oh, yes. The unique and awesome powers of the word “butt.”

It started, as so many things do, with Sam.

“Daddy, you’re a BUTT,” he giggled one day. There wasn’t malice behind it. He wasn’t being mean. He wasn’t even angry at having to make his bed, eat his dinner or anything else a little boy might not want to do. It was just ... funny. For some reason that completely, utterly escaped me. 

There was no going back. Butt, butt, butt. I’m a butt. You’re a butt. Everything is funnier with the word “butt” attached to it. 

His brother didn’t really get it, but he picked it up anyway. “Grilled cheese,” Jim informed me one day, requesting his favorite meal, “.... and a BUTT.” Giggle, giggle, giggle. “Ice cream ... and a BUTT.” “Fire trucks ... and a BUTT.” Soon the household had descended into a riot of snickering, snorting boys. And one nonplussed mom.

My husband, a former little boy himself, immediately embraced this trend. Synonyms were introduced: Rear end and caboose, etc. This just made things funnier. I guess. But it stayed clean, and didn’t descend into potty humor — yet — and I had to count my blessings.

Affectionate names grew from this. Sam went from saying things like “Hey, that looks like a cowbutt!” (giggle, snort, giggle) to saying “Hi, Cowbutt!” to his father. Who promptly dubbed him “Moosebutt.” Jim became “Chickenbutt.” I am, at this point, without a butt-related nickname, but I’m sure that will change at some point.

Soon, it even entered into scientific inquiry. “Mom, do jellyfish have butts?” 

Yes, I have now Googled the phrase “jellyfish butt.” The results were inconclusive, but apparently they have one, err, orifice for such things as intake, etc. I choose not report on these results, but simply said “No.” He was duly disappointed.

I’m pretty sure that this is all just a part of learning the use of words, and figuring out body parts, and even being part of a group. I daresay butt is a cool and extremely hysteric word to use in kindergarten. And, as far as it goes, it’s harmless.

So I’m rolling with it. Even when I feel baffled, bemused and, yes, somewhat outnumbered, I roll my eyes and remind myself that it could be worse. I have, by and large, well-behaved, happy, polite kids. I can handle a few butt jokes. Right?

Right?

A few minutes ago, I complied with a request that Sam made for something on a shelf above his reach. As I handed it to him, he sang out happily “Thank you, Catbutt!” and sailed merrily from the room.

You’re welcome ... Moosebutt.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.