Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cute Kids

Here's a photo of my brother's daughter Flo at Emily and Gareth's wedding last month (and thanks to John who took the excellent photos).
I was the adored first child of my parents. But, perhaps because I was the first child, and they'd waited seven years to get me, and perhaps because they were like that anyway, they took everything rather seriously.

One of the things they took Very Seriously Indeed was the words you could say. No, not those words - - oh, well, yes, those words too: they were of the "Flipping Heck" school of swearing. I hated euphemisms even then and that's probably the reason I so relish a good "Fucking Hell" dropped into a sentence at the perfect moment.

But some of the words which were banned to me were not the ones which you would expect.

"Cute" was one of them.

I can hear it now, from both my parents and my grandmother - my mother's mother - who lived with us.

"Don't say cute. Cute isn't English. The proper word is sweet."

Well, it isn't, you know. Cute is sweet with a jaunty edge in my working definition of Forbidden Words.

What they really meant was that Cute is American: and the Communist in particular was deeply suspicious of all things American. That strange, distant continent of cowboy films and cash and canyons and capitalism: a far-off land that we were never going to visit. "Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?" - - er, yes, actually, in the Communist's case at least.

My mother and my grandmother's view was slightly different: they didn't think that imported words were Proper English, somehow quietly not noticing that just about every word in the language was imported from somewhere.

Another one of their pet hates was "kids" because it was colloquial and Not Proper English. I know it's frequently used affectionately but Grandma never used it as anything but a term of abuse.

"Haven't you finished that homework yet, kid?" she would say, or "Haven't you tidied your bedroom yet, kid?"

If I ever used it accidentally in some sentence like "I can hear the kids in the playground across the road" then I'd be in for a long lecture on the proper use of language.
I still take a deep breath before using either Cute or Kids. But both are perfectly valid words.
So, here are Daisy and Flo, two cute kids. Now wasn't that brave of me?


Blogger Silverback said...

Ah well times have changed and now Communists are welcomed into America with open arms. Well maybe not open arms exactly but they're not refused at least.

Terrorists, on the other hand, are definitely NOT welcome. I know that's hard to believe and I feel for any potential suicide bomber who fancies his or her chances of causing mayhem on US soil.

Sorry, you're not getting in.

The authorities still expect you to be really REALLY honest about it though as evidenced by these somewhat leading questions on the immigration/visa form....

"Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?"

Now I ask you, what sort of questions are those to ask potential terrorists ? And to make it worse, there is only a yes/no option !! No little box where you could explain your reasons for wanting to casually wander into Walt Disney World Resort up the road here and blow a few little infidels to kingdom come.

Still, I'm glad that Homeland Security is partly basing it's defence of the nation on the premise that, although a terrorist may be capable of unimaginable acts, one of them isn't telling fibs on a form.

2:38 pm  
Blogger John said...

over here in Dictionary Corner we find:

cute 1731, shortening of acute; informal sense of "pretty" is 1834, American English student slang.

7:47 pm  
Blogger Malcolm Cinnamond said...

I think 'cute' is just swell.

10:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone (fortunately I can't remember exactly who) once told me off for referring to some children as kids. "Kids are young goats" she admonished. Fair point. But Flo really does look like a cute kid and not at all goat like.

9:39 pm  

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