Growing up, I’m sure you had a list of words you weren’t supposed to use, or at least say out loud. What is on your list?
I think I was six when some teenager had soaped the F#$* word on our car window on Halloween night. The next morning on the ride to school, I tried to figure it out. I was learning to read phonetically. I knew the word duck so I could sound out this new word. As I said the word aloud several times in the car, Mom became upset. I didn’t know I had done something wrong. I don’t think Mom defined the word for me, except she did say it wasn’t a nice word and I should never, never say that word out loud, especially at school.
When I worked as a substitute teacher, I frequently would have elementary students tattle on each other, “Freddy said a bad word.” The students were testing me to see how I’d react. My list of no-no words grew longer.
“We don’t call anyone stupid.” And bullying isn’t allowed. “Let’s try kindness instead.”
As a poet, when I read the words of a poem, I often see words that just shouldn’t be in the poem. These aren’t cuss words. Just words with sounds that don’t fit in a line, or words with too many syllables to fit nicely. (The words in a poem do have to play nicely with each other.)
When I participated in March Madness Poetry fest where each poet was given a word to write a poem with, my word was disencumberment . I was supposed to write a children’s poem with this word. I kept arguing with myself that disencumberment would not be , or rather should not be in a children’s poem. It is like trying to fit a six syllable word into a five syllable line of haiku. It just shouldn’t be done.
I was reading a poem about rain today and the poet mentioned the deluge. In the next line were two alliterative “d” words. But that deluge just seemed to grate on my ears. It has a harsh sound to me. To my delight, it did provide a challenge. Can I write a poem using that word? Otherwise this poor little word is going to end up on my list of words that shouldn’t be in poems for children. And with our rich tapestry of language, deluge is a great word to have in your vocabulary. Especially since we have been having blowing rain all night. It has been coming in interrupted bursts of down pour. Yes, a deluge. Enough to wake one from sleeping.
Do you have your own list of no, no words? What are some of them? Or is this just a plain stupid idea?