Mildly Amusing, Sometimes Tart, Use Your Words

The Word That Must Not Be Spoken

Today I want to talk about the word butt. I find this word to be a fairly innocuous description of a particular part of the anatomy, even endearing in some ways, especially when compared to other more colorful terms that I know. It was only recently that I found out that “butt” is one of those four-letter words you are not supposed to say in front of children, at least in this part of the country. And this was puzzling to me because when and where I grew-up, the utterance of this word did not ruin a party.

My husband and I were at a Christmas party several years ago in the home of a business associate. The house was aglow in all its holiday glory. There was a cacophony of holiday music, conversation, laughing, and happy, noisy children. I was sitting in front of a roaring fire, sipping a glass of wine and admiring the stockings hung just so from the mantle. It was a Norman Rockwell scene, until…. (cue the soundtrack from Jaws) I innocently remarked that if Santa were to come down the chimney tonight he would burn his butt. The room went completely silent. The bulbs on the tree dimmed. The fire was nearly snuffed out as the oxygen was sucked from the room as everyone simultaneously gasped in horror. The little boy standing nearest to me dropped the toy he was playing with and clutched his face like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. He stood there with his mouth agape unable to make a sound. Then he started fanning his face with both hands as though he had the vapors. “You! Can’t! Say! That!” he managed to sputter. And then he said it again, as though I didn’t get it. And apparently I didn’t because I then said, “Can’t say what? Butt? What’s wrong with butt? Is butt a bad word? Who doesn’t say butt?” And it was at that point he ran off screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! She said b-u-t-t!” With nothing more (egregious) that could be done, I lifted my glass to the crowd, said “Bottoms up!” and downed the remainder of my wine. I then collected my husband from behind the curtains where he was pretending to be invisible and we slunk off into the night to destroy more unsuspecting children. Perhaps at the next party I could announce that there is no Santa Clause.

After the Christmas party incident, I wondered what other people thought about The Word That Must Not Be Spoken. So I took an informal poll among my friends and I got a wide and varied response depending on what region of the country I was polling. My friends from the UK use the term bum (or is it truly a 4-letter word, bumm?) My southern friends say “bottom” but will use the word “tail” if the situation warrants, as in “Bucky Joe, you get yoah tail ovuh here right now!” The mid-westerners I polled use the word “behind” and some of my older relatives say “fanny.” And the list goes on and on. It seems everyone has a pet name for their, umm… backside.

I guess the moral of the story is this: When at a party, know what part of the country you’re in and beyond that, sit on it — don’t say it.

1 thought on “The Word That Must Not Be Spoken

  1. Comments imported from Blogger:

    McSwain said…
    We’re all “butts” out here in So Cal… Although I must say this is story is refreshing. Unfortunately, even the use of the “f” word doesn’t stop a party (or anything else for that matter) around here.

    9/14/2005 1:15 PM

    Mountaingirl said…
    My husband about had a heart attack because I told my 2 yr old that his butt crack was called just that. I don’t know what word he thought I should use. But this is also the man who told my son to say that he had gas. He thought that it was terrible of me to tell him it was called a poot.
    to Cheryl… I have an uncle who is from Malaysia originally and he uses all kinds of profanity in front of anyone. He really just doesn’t think anything is wrong with saying it. We have to tape the two yr olds ears.
    to Antique mommy… you can say butt at my party. We’ll all probably just laugh…with the exception of my proper husband.

    9/14/2005 2:18 PM

    SJ said…
    It had never occurred to me that there were regional terms for your, um backside. Butt is a word I prefer the boys not say, but I say it sometimes. Funny. Thanks for the education today.

    9/14/2005 4:41 PM

    Jenni said…
    Butt has got to be a better option than the a** word…..

    9/17/2005 7:53 PM

    Julia’s mom said…
    Thanks for the laugh!!! I come from North Carolina where we also call “it” the bottom or tush. Growing up it seemed that my parents were forever finding something cute to call it. My favorites are caboose and posterior.

    9/19/2005 5:03 PM

    MikeysJack said…
    My spouse’s brother says that Santa Claus died in 1979. I just thought you’d like to know, so if you DO ever decide to use that information, you can even add the year!



    4/14/2006 11:42 AM

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