Monday, June 04, 2007

Ideas Girl and the F-Bomb: Or what my Daughter Learned from Dora the Explorer

So, about a week ago, Heather was brushing Elena's teeth, when Elena announced: "fuck." Well, to be fair, the sound (at least the sound I later heard) was more like f-schwah-ck, but phonetically too distinctive to be much of anything else. Heather asked Elena what she said, and Elena again repeated: "fuck." Not wanting to draw attention, Heather left it at that.

Now, for the record, Elena has naturally heard curse words. There was, for example, the time we were driving home from the airport after we had just flown back from Europe, and Heather (jet-lagged) thought I had gotten on the freeway the wrong-way and repeated, several times, the word "shit" which Elena liked the sound of, until we convinced her Mommy was really talking about the ship you could see in the distance, floating down the Delaware River (those of you familiar with this stretch of I-95 will know that you cannot actually see the Delaware River at this point). Similarly, after we once slept through the alarm (yes, Elena usually ends up in our bed at some point in the night), I told her I had been dreaming about boats, something she told people for quite some time (for some reason, she always claims to dream about bees. Thus, a typical morning interaction would go as follows: "How did you sleep Elena? Good! I dream about bees, and Daddy dreamed about a big boat." This sentence is probably a point for Freud and Lacan. Eventually she forgot the boat and the bees.

But I'm pretty sure that we draw the line at "fuck." I am reasonably confident we don't use it (around her -- obviously we use it -- this is why I have to be careful not to hear W --- incidentally, I once argued that he shouldn't be re-elected because I wouldn't be able to control my tongue around my young daughter. If only sound reasoning had prevailed). Although she might pick up all sorts of things at school, mostly, so far as I can tell, pertaining to gender roles, I don't think this word is making the two and three year old circuit yet.

So, where did this word come from?

From a seven-year old explorer as far as we were eventually able to tell.

Now, it is fairly well known that one of the sometimes sinister characters (whose occasional cross-over to goodness makes him resemble Charles Emerson Winchester, more than, for example, Frank Burns) on Dora is named "Swiper the Fox." Swiper swipes things (this means he throws them a few feet away from Dora, Boots et al. unless he is stopped through the formula "swiper no swiping." Ideas Girl will adhere to this idea in her life, respecting that if someone says "no swiping" in time, there's nothing left to do but snap your fingers and say "Oh Man!" It's much more funny to hear her say "You're too late!")

What is less well known is that every country has its own Swiper. This is discovered in Dora World, a Dora Double-Episode Extravaganza, in which Swiper and Dora team up to return the Friendship Bracelets that Swiper has swiped from around the world (or at least whatever part of Latin America or the United States that Dora hails from, France, Tanzania, Russia and China -- note Dora's anti-Australian and anti-Oceania agenda). So, for example, France has "Fifi the Skunk," Tanzania "Sami the Hyena," Russia "Fom-ka the Bear" (pronounced foh-ka); and China "Ying-Ying the Weasel." Each of these most be thwarted by saying "Fifi no swiping," "Ying-Ying no swiping, etc.

It should also be known that I am Fom-ka approximately 18% of the time, and certainly the plurality of the time. I am sometimes Ying-ying, sometimes Daddy, sometimes Boots, sometimes June or any other character from a variety of children's programming. It should be noted, as I believe Ideas Woman, Esq. has commented on her blurty, that Elena and I can sometimes morph genders (she is usually Annie, but also often Tico or Rocket, whose gender is male and whose ethnicity is, I believe Hispanic -- more on this another time perhaps), but Heather's gender is always fixed (I take it this is one up for Irigaray as opposed to Freud and Lacan). So, "Fom-ka! No swiping [me into my car-seat or some object I am not supposed to be playing with]" is often heard in our household.

Finally, it should be known, if the previous examples don't make it clear, that Elena is not 100% clear on the meaning of swiping. It apparently involves any motion and melds with, for example, "sweeping" ["or swooping" or "brooming" --- all of which are synonyms.]

One day, not long after the f-bombs, we stopped hearing "Fom-ka, no swiping." I did not, however cease to be Fom-ka. This led us to our realization: "f-schwa-ck" is the verbal form of "Fom-ka" just as "swipe" is the verbal form of "Swiper." "Fomka fowks" just as "Sami Sams" "Fifi Feefs" and "Ying Ying (presumably) Yings." This of course warms my Heideggerian heart.

Suffice it to say that over the next few days, there were ample chances casually to mention that Fomka, Sami et. al. "swipe." Elena soon caught on, and the f-bomb has disappeared, hopefully at least until Kindergarten.

Now, I'm bracing for the very special Sesame Episode when the Count forgets the letter "O."