“Hello old trout.”
I was rooted to the spot as the greeting emerged from the mouth of my 3-year old son, safely ensconced in his pushchair, to an equally open-mouthed neighbour.
“Lovely morning,” I smiled before she could speak.
I pressed on into our driveway, making a mental note not to shout obscenities at her from the perceived ’safety’ of my house again. ‘Walls have ears’, my mother used to tell me, well, kids have them too and they can often land you deep in it.
I remember when I was six or seven, hearing someone in my class swear for the first time, but I didn’t quite catch the word they used. When I dropped my fork on my toe later that evening over dinner, the misheard expletive poured out of me:
“Ah you howie,” I roared, and not an eyebrow stirred, nor a hair moved in the house.
A week later after hearing the word in its full glory, I accidentally tipped a glass of water over my school shirt.
“Ah you whore,” I roared and received an almighty clatter around the head, an hour long interrogation and no supper for my troubles. The reason I mention this is that as a parent, this debate has reared its ugly head again. I made the mistake of teaching my son the phrase ‘poo poo head’. I accept that a literal translation of this could clearly be offensive, not least to the ‘old trout’, oops… to my neighbour, so I made a note not to use it again and to encourage my son to stop saying it.
It was used in fun I explained to my in-laws who were present during the discussion and I even cited the urban dictionary which describes it as a phrase “usually used in a joking, light-hearted manner towards a friend”. However the reaction of my sister-in-law who was present at the time surprised me:
“If your son said that to another boy in our school, he would be sent home.”
Could that really be true? Would a teacher suspend a child because he called another child a poo-poo head or even worse, if he pooh poohed a poo-poo head?
It could happen. After all, Christopher Clarke, son of then UK Education Minister, Charles Clarke, was sent home for swearing at a caretaker’s assistant. Christopher, who was 15 at the time, was carrying a football in the playground when a fellow pupil kicked it out of his hands. The ball landed close to the caretaker’s assistant who confiscated it prompting Christopher to swear at him. But crucially one important detail was missing from the news report. Was Christopher suspended for calling the assistant a poo-poo head or a howie?
I think as parents we have the right to know…