. Watermelon Words
Part of raising courteous, kind children is helping them know how to speak politely. It is teaching them what words to avoid completely so they are neither embarrassed nor do they embarrass you. It is helping them know if their language is completely compatible with the situation at hand.
As a nurturer in the home and mentor in the work place there are many opportunities to help others speak more plainly, avoiding words that make their language dirty or disgusting. Sometimes we must speak directly to the language being used. Other times we might choose to speak more subtlety. With family members, we might want to get creative. Using the example of a watermelon will help all family members, especially younger children, understand the variety of words in our language and their proper usage. You see, a watermelon has a rind, seeds, and the juicy, sweet center.
The rind represents the words in our language that are slightly off-colored, derogatory, or hurtful. These “rind” words might include words such as stupid, ugly, and pigheaded. In and of themselves, they are not wrong, but they make the person speaking them less than classy. Just as the rind of a watermelon is less tasteful than eating the sweet center, rind words are less useful in our conversations. A true lady and/or a gentleman doesn’t use these words to communicate to anyone. The words that you consider to be rind words in your home will be up to you, but encourage your children to rid themselves of such sour, inappropriate, and insignificant words. Instead, strive to teach them to become ladies and gentlemen, searching for and using the more cultivated, engaging words of our language.
A watermelon often also has dark seeds. These are not to be eaten and are taken out before the watermelon is served at more formal occasions or spat out freely when at the park for a picnic. Just as watermelon seeds are discarded, “seed” words are not useful and are not to be spoken. These “seed” words include all foul language, swearing, and gutter words. (I would give multiple examples, but am sure you have had your own experience with such words and will know when to correct your children as they use them.)
Finally, the sweet, interior of the watermelon represents all the lovely words in our language. They are to be used generously, added to any conversation, and help us express our feelings freely every day.
Even as you correct and extinguish the use of rind and seed words in your home, have fun with the sweet, juicy words of our language. Enjoy alliteration, which are series of words which all have the same first sound. “Fanny found Frank’s phone funny.” Have fun with rhyming, too, which are words that end with the same sound. “Bring the ring here so it can sing to the king.” Have fun with creative words that aren’t even in the dictionary. “My deliciousy dessert is slushing down my throaty.” But at all costs, consistently teach that certain words are not allowed in your home.
Sometimes, other children will come into your home and begin to use watermelon seed and rind words. It is useful to sit them down casually and explain that just as there are parts of the watermelon that are not eaten in your home, there are words which are not allowed to be spoken in your home. These include words such as you have just heard the child speak.
As you correct these young guests, suggest alternate words that are appropriate. I remember a mentor of mine helping a youngster who had just swore after hitting his thumb with a hammer. My father simply said, “John, such a word is not worthy of you. I remember that your grandfather, when he hurt himself would say ‘thunder and lighting.’ It allowed him to vent his feelings without cursing his God.” John got the point, for shortly thereafter the hammer found his finger again and this time ‘thunder and lighting’ were the words of choice.
Do you correct adult guests when they visit your home? I think not, but I do believe that children should be advised that although you were courteous to your honored guests, several of their conversational epitaphs are not allowable in your home in the future family conversations. You might even ask if they knew which words they were. Surprisingly, children pick up the inflection, the circumstances, and the reactions of others when certain words are spoken and know intuitively that “….” just isn’t to be used. It is not a sweet, juicy watermelon word.
Teach your children, console them when they ere, and refer to the watermelon often. Remember, seeds and rinds are to be set aside, sweet centers are to be enjoyed!