Ps and Qs

I have developed a whole new vocabulary over the past couple of years since Isaac was born. Drat, Poppycock. Darnation. Fiddlesticks. You know the sort of thing: those child-friendly words or phrases which replace a tiny but not infrequently used subset of the English language which is best kept away from young but sponge-like minds.

It goes hand-in-hand with drilling all those other basic rules of etiquette into our children, which are frequently referred to as ‘minding your Ps and Qs’.

(Incidentally, there is much dispute over the etymology of this particular phrase, with possible explanations ranging from the prosaic – children’s pronunciations of “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” – to the more obscure (for instance, a reminder to innkeepers to keep a tally of the pints and quarts their patrons consumed, or mistakenly transposing lower case p’s and q’s when typesetting on printing presses). Well, I find it interesting, anyway.)

What’s been particularly fascinating – and funny – is to watch the take-up and correct contextual usage of such phrases by Zac as his command of the spoken word increases. Since shortly after Christmas, he has been regularly saying “Oh my God!” – accompanied by the requisite cartoonish inflection and wide-eyed expression – in perfect mimicry of his grandma. This has been followed in recent weeks by the gradual introduction of a number of old-fashioned colloquialisms such  as “Golly gosh!” and “Goodness gracious me!”, all of which generate a level of amusement in any adult within earshot that encourages their repeated use.

I dread the day – which I know must inevitably come – when he turns round to us and uses a four-letter word for the first time. It will probably happen far sooner than we would hope for, and it will be one of those milestones which mark the end of innocence on his rapidly accelerating journey into adulthood.

I want my son to grow up in so many ways. This isn’t one of them.