This post on Motherlode made me smile. It reminded me of me.
I was one of those verbally precocious and fairly obnoxious little kids who speak like an adult. I read well beyond grade level, I read all the time, and I didn't have many friends my own age. Add to that an unusual ability to think on my feet and parents who included their children in almost all adult conversations, and you have an eight-year-old who talks in long, verbose paragraphs, with grammar and vocabulary more often employed by pretentious graduate students. My parents found it amusing and my grandfather found it gratifying. My teachers and my peers were neither amused nor proud.
When I was about 13, and "no friends my own age" was getting old, I made a conscious effort to start talking more like a kid. I never really got there, but it was enough of a change to irritate my grandfather. Mission accomplished. I stopped worrying about it in college, where most of us talked like pretentious graduate students, and I figured I'd found my tribe. Now I code-switch when I'm with patients or non-medical folk to avoid the worst of MediBabble, and the rest of the time I let my word freak flag fly.
When Eve was born, Sam and I did not stop talking in full sentences and we didn't really change our vocabularies. There was a fair amount of "widdle babeee cutieee pieee" because she was a widdle babeee cutieee pieee, but by the time she was two or three that stopped. Eve is much more interested in being one of the crowd than I ever was, so she has always talked like a kid. I didn't take the advice of one friend who suggested that we avoid Dr. Seuss until she was learning to read, and instead read to her from Shakespeare and Frost and Donne - I waited a long time to read "Green Eggs and Ham" to a child, and I intended to enjoy it (although I have to say that "Hop on Pop" goes on way too long). We found lots of other wonderful rhyming books - my favorite was Two Cool Cows - with more sophisticated language. And we didn't curtail our vocabularies.
Cursing was different. My parents never cursed in front of us - well, no more than the occasional "damn". I heard my mother say "SHIT" precisely once in my first 20 years, and that's when she was vacuuming without her glasses and ran the machine over, yes, shit (the dog was getting old). My father thought this was so funny that he volunteered to clean the vacuum - Mom intended to throw it out. When I was a junior in college, my father commented that someone didn't know "shit from shinola". My mother said "Not in front of the child!" and my father said "She's 21. It's time, Susie". My extensive childhood vocabulary didn't extend to the "really bad words" - I didn't pick those up until college.
Once I picked them up, I had a hard time putting them down, though. I can control myself at work, since it's entirely unprofessional to curse around patients, but at home I can sound like the proverbial sailor. When Eve was born, I eliminated the very worst words but never completely extinguished "damn" and "hell". We never tried to stop her from saying them, either, and by the time she was 10, and we knew she was hearing "fuck" and "shit" on the playground every day, we stopped censoring ourselves. We told her that we didn't care if she used those words, as long as she wasn't saying them at someone. In our house, we don't use "gay" or "lame" or "retarded" as slurs. We don't say "homo" at all. We don't call women "bitches" and we don't tolerate any version of the n-word. We've told her that our standards are pretty much the opposite of other people's, and that she should watch her language at other people's houses. But when the dog tangles his leash under the refrigerator and she's the one lying on the floor trying to unsnare it while the dog licks her face, then I don't see anything wrong with a muttered "holy fuck".