So, there I was, having this random discussion with my boys. For some reason we rounded to the topic of insults and began talking about that scene from Star Trek 2009 in which young Vulcan boys begin to insult young Spock in order to provoke him. He does not become angry until one of the boys says, “He’s a traitor, you know, for marrying her, the human whore.”
This is what my boys understood in general–Spock became angry for some sort of insult.
BUT, this is what my boys heard:
Fourth Grader: “He’s a traitor, you know, for marrying her, the human horse.”
Sixth Grader: “He’s a traitor, you know, for marrying her, the human horde.”
At this point, I wasn’t cracking up too much. Human horse sounds pretty insulting on some level. My sixth grader explained the connection of horde with all of its references to zombies. So, I guess that makes sense, too. “Your mom is zombie. Your mom is a horse.” I guess that could make someone like young Spock feel justified in attacking the other boys, at least from their perspectives.
Well, my teenager wanted to make sure that they knew that whore is an insult and is what they actually said in the movie. Why? I don’t know. He was just trying to make things clear, trying to prove he already knew. I am pretty sure they heard some word spelled like “hoar” or “hore” or who knows. I stepped in and quite simply said it’s something like a prostitute.
Sixth Grader: “Ohhhh….”
Fourth Grader–deer looking at the headlights.
My teenager took another step. “Do you even know what that means?” he teased his seemingly knowing brother.
Sixth Grader: “Of course, I do. It means a government official.”
Oh, the irony and innocence of that statement! I could not contain my guffaws this time. He clarified after we stopped laughing (don’t worry, everyone was laughing at this point, my fourth grader not knowing why but loving to laugh, my sixth grader enjoying making people laugh anyway). My sixth grader pronounced that a prostitute is like the people who prosecute people. It made sense to him for some reason.
Of course, my teenager clarified once again, “That’s prosecutor, duh.”
We didn’t go any further into the depths of knowledge after that. I told my sixth grader that if he really wanted to know, he could go look in the dictionary. He wasn’t that worried about it. I rather enjoyed the innocence of it all. How young people are protected based on their understanding of vocabulary!
It made me think of when it is appropriate to let them know more. For instance, would you want a senior in high-school to misunderstand vocabulary so egregiously that he cannot tell when someone is using the rhetorical device of euphemism? He’s getting ready to vote, to maneuver around the world. Understanding what you hear, understanding what you see, understanding what you read–these all require a knowledge of vocabulary–words–and how those words are used. Granted, my boys understood that the Vulcan boys were insulting Spock based on his reaction. It was logical to them. But, they really didn’t know the gravity of the insult. Because of low reading comprehension levels, how many young adults are protected with this filter of innocence because they just do not understand the words being used and how those words are being used?
Sorry, perhaps those questions are too serious for this post.
I guess my final question is did I let a new type of bias begin by not just simply revealing the meaning of whore to my sons? Was it logical for me to not give them that knowledge? Truth or lie, I don’t know. I just know that I’m content to let them remain in innocent misunderstanding…for now.