Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

2 Funny

Posted by Neal on February 17, 2005

Today was parent-teacher conference day. When we met with Adam’s preschool teacher, she told us that Adam will sometimes make funny observations or suggestions in class, and that he seems to enjoy wordplay. Like his dad, she added. I wondered what she was remembering that prompted her to make that last comment. Could it be that she reads this very blog, and has been impressed by the refined linguistic humor regularly found herein? Or have my literal-minded sensibilities come through in my conversations with her? Or maybe it was something that happened on one of the days when I was in the classroom, observing Adam? You know, come to think of it, I seem to recall an incident now… I remember it like it was a couple of months ago…

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a table near the handwashing station, cutting capital and lowercase C’s out of construction paper for their coming letter-of-the-week art project. As I sat there, I watched Adam and his classmates do their various free-choice and mandatory-assignment activities. At the writing station, their task was to trace a number 2.

Just before snacktime, Adam’s teacher was sitting at a table about five feet away, recording what each kid had done that day. One by one, she’d call them over, and ask, “Did you cut out the kite picture? Did you play with the snow? Did you make a number two?”

I sat there cutting out C’s, silently grinning every time I heard her ask, “Did you make a number two?” Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I shared my amusement with the teacher’s aide, who was passing by. Adam’s teacher saw us laughing, so the aide let her in on the joke.

After that, I continued cutting out the C’s and listening to Adam’s teacher conduct her interviews: “Did you cut out the kite picture? Did you play with the snow? Did you write a number two?”

7 Responses to “2 Funny”

  1. Anonymous said

    I sat next to my best friend in law school and we would laugh to the point of tears every time our large-arsed contracts professor would explain a legal rule, then say “but, and this is a really big but[t]…”
    //dgm

  2. Ingeborg S. Nordn said

    Doug’s fascination with toilet jokes reminds me of the way my brother talked when he was that age; and Doug’s playing semantic games with adults reminds me of the way we both acted for years. This post provoked at least as many real-life giggles from me as your old description of the “Silent Pee” incident; here’s another bookmark in my browser!

  3. Ingeborg S. Nordn said

    Oooops, I said “Doug” and meant “Adam”…please accept my apologies for confusing your son with another boy!

  4. Anonymous said

    Neal, I wonder if some of the wordplay came from Mom. I don’t remember anything about number 2, but I remember vividly the night I was practicing writing letters and I wrote an uppercase P and a lowercase p. I guess I said, I made a “P”, or “Look, P, p!” since Mom and Glen thought that my talking about “pee” and “peepee” was really funny and kept pointing out to me how funny it was. I should have been careful to say, “I wrote the letter P, twice, one uppercase and one lowercase.”
    Ellen

  5. Ingeborg S. Nordn said

    Bathroom humor involving the letter P isn’t too unusual, especially when English-speaking children think of “pee” as THE word for urination/urine. (Believe it or not, my brother and I had a running joke in childhood…reciting part of the alphabet as “H-I-J-K, L-M-N-O-bad word” after hearing that we weren’t supposed to say “pee” in public.)

    P.S. From what I’ve read in dictionaries and books about profanity, “pee” developed into a word because English-speakers often use the first letter of a swearword as a euphemism for the whole thing (“piss” in this case). Parents generally don’t swear or use medical terms around toddlers–so the euphemistic “pee” makes sense as the best word choice in that context.

  6. Neal said

    Ingeborg: Yeah, that’s the problem with euphemisms. Once it’s commonly known what they mean, they’re no good anymore.

    As for medical terminology, I remember Mom and Dad trying to get Glen and me to say ‘urinate’ and ‘defecate’ when I was about 4. Mom says she did it after another mother heard me say ‘doodoo’ (or maybe ‘grunt,’ a term for defecation that I’ve only heard from our family and once in the movie “Travelers”), and embarrassed Mom by getting all patronizing: “Oh, it *that* what you call it? *We* call it …”

    My mother-in-law thinks its funny that when I supervise Doug and Adam’s baths, one of the areas I refer to is “penis and scrotum.” I suppose she’d rather I just say ‘thingy,’ which is what she did with her daughters. And if you think I enjoy potty humor, you should see my wife’s face every time I refer to a whatchamacallit as a thingy!

  7. Ingeborg S. Nordén said

    Neal: Teaching kids the “correct” names for embarrassing body parts and biological functions can backfire. When I was younger, my mother once reported that my younger brother had gotten in trouble for writing “your rectum stinks” on the blackboard in Sunday school. (“But I didn’t use a bad word…” he had protested.)

    To use someone else’s published example (from _Family Circle_): A clerk in a doctor’s office needed insurance information from the mother of a young boy; she asked the mother whether they had a PPO. The boy blurted out: “No, I have a penis and my mommy has a fachina [sic]”.

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