For the Potty-Mouthed Among Us
by ALSC - The Association for Library Service to Children on Monday, September 6, 2010 at 3:37pm
The expletive exploded from my lips, echoing across the program room where a dozen preschoolers looked up at me wide-eyed, mouths agape. I swallowed hard and managed to glance up at the one mom sitting in the corner with a small toddler on her lap. I noted her eyebrow, cocked above a set of disapproving eyes. In response to a smile I hoped was apologetic, I received only a tight lipped “tsk” and a smooth dismissal. I never saw little Windham in storytime again.
It’s not the first time my potty mouth has landed me in some hot water in the library. Just last month, after spilling a container of glitter across the textured carpet (nearly impossible to vacuum up all those minute, shiny bits), I was heard to exclaim in frustration, “For the love of pickles!”
I’m not proud to admit that this foulness was said in earshot of several babes in arms, two au pairs, and a group of Cub Scouts. The shame still burns. Even now, simply writing about the Incident brings a hot flush to my cheeks.
For those of us with the oratory flair of truck drivers and men of the sea, children’s librarianship can pose some unexpected challenges. Controlling our colorful jargon is something they do not teach us in library school. From a flippant “Geez, Louise” to a venomous “Dash it all!,” even the most cool headed among us has been known to slip up.
My solution? Imbuing euphemistic swearwords with early literacy-building references. If one is going to swear, why not “Hot-chi Mot-chi,” a rhyming exclamation that increases phonological awareness? Or, how about “Egads!,” a sure way to draw attention to the importance of letter knowledge?
My ultimate hope is, of course, is to cleanse my mind and tongue of these egregious expletives. In the meantime, all I can do is hope to bear this cross with grace and tact.
So, my friends, should you find yourself mid-Toddler Time, struggling to remember the lines to Tom Thumbs Up and accidentally utter “Jiminy Crickets!,” know that you are not alone. We struggle together. And, at the very least, you can use the opportunity to discuss syllables, rimes, and phonemes.