Until I was fourteen, I thought the middle syllable of vagina was pronounced gin as in ‘gin & tonic’. I’d never once heard the word uttered aloud and remember distinctly the BMX track I was playing at when I heard it pronounced correctly by a boy with a clearly more enlightenend ubringing than mine. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the context.
During a visit the other day to Kilkenny’s only public playground, I discovered that children in Ireland today, well some of them at least, display no such lingual ignorance.
The playground, a haven of mayhem, is a very popular place during the summer holidays with too few benches for grown-ups desperately trying to keep an eye on their charges who flit around the place in an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of colour. In fact, if lucky enough to get space for your bum on a seat, it’s a challenge to hold onto it as safety and decorum dictate that you have to get up and down every few minutes to either relocate your children or reprimand them or both. I noticed one grandmother cannily place a newspaper on her bench spot every time she had to get up to tend to her charges, a trick I’ll remember for next time.
I imagine that if I was under-10 with heaps of energy, I’d think the playground was, in the vernacular of the young, deadly, with plenty of swings, weird roundabout-things, various climbing apparatus and slides. As a highly-strung parent, the climbing frame which at its apex seems to reach around 12 feet off the ground, does look, literally, deadly.
There is a circle of swings facing inwards so that children can swing and chat face-to-face at the same time; they also, rather predictably, try to kick each other. My long-legged semi-Danish offspring came worryingly close to succeeding making me wonder what size child the designers had in mind. This circular set-up does of course encourage social banter among the young ones.
I’m not sure how the following repartee started but I tuned in to hear D1 laughing at a boy who nearly fell off his swing.
D1: You’ve got a flower up your nose.
Boy: Calls her something I don’t hear.
D1: You’ve got a carrot up your nose. Hee hee.
Boy: Calls her something I can’t hear.
D2: You’ve got a poo up your nose. Ha, ha, ha!
Boy: You’ve got a vagina up yours! (perfectly pronounced but anatomically innacurate)
To borrow and adapt the words of WB Yeats: 'Innocent Ireland is dead and gone, It's with O'Leary in the grave.' Clearly, Mr Yeats was wrong about the romantic part; it's alive and well, in the playground at least. (For those who never had the pleasure of an Irish education, the original line reads 'Romantic Ireland is dead and gone,')
Back to Norway at the weekend, with D2 starting at her new school, S1 taking up his coveted kindergarden place, and lots of discussion about a possible move next summer. Can't say to where yet.......