Jowita Bydlowska

Baby’s First F-Word

fuel9000, “Ellie’s Amazing Vocabulary” (2011)

Is there anything funnier than a baby saying the word “fuck?” No there is not. Based on many studies I’ve conducted, a baby saying the word “fuck” is  40 per cent more entertaining than a cat playing a piano, or a drunken celebrity lady named Paz falling off a curb.

It’s life’s perfect moment — baby saying “fuck” — because it’s innocence and vulgarity combined together. Like strippers dancing for Jesus or something. The first time I heard my own baby say “fuck,” from the back seat of a car on our way to a dinner party, I laughed. I am in fact laughing right now as I recall that moment and the little squeaky voice saying “fuck” again, and then again — “fuck” — so clearly and perfectly behind me because he figured this was making mommy laugh so why not do it again. Part of me felt as if our family had reached an important milestone, the one you never read about in children’s magazines and other parental rules and regulations pamphlets. My partner and I had tears of pride and shame mixing in our eyes as we immediately, instinctively shouted from the front seat, “A duck? You see a duck? A duck? Look, a duck, what a big duck.”

A number of friends who are parents shared their baby’s-first-fuck-word story. One friend’s daughter said, “Good-night, assholes.” Another toddler was fond of “For fuck’s sake.” And yet another one while driving in the car with his dad said, “That fucking guy,” possibly in an imitation of road rage. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one able to enjoy this particular type of baby comedy. And the people who shoot movies of their big-eyed innocents cursing like sailors clearly understand that this is some funny shit. You can hardly find one of those videos without some grownup giggling hysterically in the background.

barampa1, “One, Two…” (2007)

But is the child damaged in the process? Possibly. I shared my baby-says-fuck story at work and it did not go over well. “Where did he learn that?” a mom of a girl toddler asked. “Oh, day care,” I said, quickly assessing the situation. “That’s horrible. Which daycare?” she said, and gave me her daughter’s daycare address and phone number and assured me that there were still open spaces. But what if my child was going to now damage others with his knowledge? Did she really want him to spread the “fuck” virus at her daycare? I was reminded of “Pontypool,” Bruce McDonald’s movie about a deadly disease of language that turns people into zombies.

Bruce McDonald, “Pontypool” (2008)

Was “fuck” just as deadly? My partner and I threw ourselves at trying to correct the fucking problem. We remained stone-faced when “fuck” was shouted over and over again. We teared up from holding our giggles when “Oh fuck” suddenly appeared on bumping into things. “Oh fuck! Oh fuck!” the toddler screamed as I burst blood vessels in my face from stifling laughter, remembering having to hold farts in a nice public place like church. And I was also reminded of what the church people (nuns) used to say about swear words when I was a child: “Heck” was just as bad as “hell” but it was, somehow, better. “Heck” ensured you still would get to hold hands with Elvis in Heaven, “hell” prevented you from even getting close to it.

And then, eventually, my partner and I eradicated “fuck” from our son’s language, sort of unwittingly relying on that old churchy suggestion. My baby is now saying “buck” and “oh buck” and we’re able to laugh freely because we know that “buck” really stands for “fuck” and is there anything more funny in the world than a baby saying “buck?” Yes there is. But at least my son’s soul is saved, for now.

– Jowita Bydlowska

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Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, as in Poland. She moved to Canada as a teenager. That hurt. She got over it eventually and now she likes it in Canada. She's the author of "Drunk Mom," a memoir, "Guy," a novel, and "Possessed," also a novel. For fun she takes weird pictures, usually of herself, because she and herself are on the same page most of the time so it's just easier that way. More from Jowita Bydlowska here.