by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
September 23, 2003
SCATOLOGY 101: NOW THEY'RE CURSING IN KINDERGARTEN
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Now, I assure you, he didn't hear these words at home; not, at least, in the context he was using them. He was angry, this little tyke in short pants and a striped shirt, standing with his feet planted firmly, his little tears dropping from his cheeks into the playground dust. Another kid had climbed up the ladder close behind him and pushed him down the slide before he was set to go.
Screaming, crying, raging, clenching fists, but knowing he couldn't swing them, he shouted: "Dumb, dumb, poopie, stinky, you go cah cah outside." The other kid was scared. No one his age had ever spoken to him like that.
Other epithets flew: "You go pee-pee in your pants, you dumb, dumb, stupid, stupid, stupid." The other boy turned tail and ran off crying, while mine settled himself down before coming over to me, chest full of bravado.
Luckily, the other little boy had not yet become sophisticated enough to chant, "Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me." That might have led to a thrown rock. Why mine chose all the scatological words, I'll never know. Children associate the potty they're proud to use with something that has to be flushed or tossed away. Before they're capable of using the bathroom as a "big boy" they go through months of being asked, "Do you have a dirty diaper?" "Do you have (poopies) (cah cah) (a load) in your pants?" "Here, let me get you out of that dirty diaper," we say.
They make associations. And then they move to hearing what other people say when they're angry, or just emphasizing a word or two in their speech. I recall a five year old at the midget derby with his grandfather, standing at the rail, looking through a cyclone fence. "Granddad! Look at that sonovabitch go." The grandfather turned to the crowd, smiled, and said: "Kids."
Add 30 years to the little playground bully's victim and you have someone like, say, Tony Soprano's alter ego (or the actor who portrays him on HBO each week), James Gandolfini. In his Emmy Award acceptance speech, we saw the actor as himself, well-spoken, self-effacing, wishing the award had gone to the whole cast and, judging by his language and diction, he appeared to be to "the Manor born."
Not so Tony Soprano, the character he plays. Tony is from New Jersey, a cab ride over the bridge and across the river from Queens, New York - where I am from, which is probably why I understand the language and also wonder what's so great about day-to-day life with the crude Sopranos. We shunned the likes of those whose gold pinkie rings and flashing solid gold Rolexes were seen emerging from their long limousines before they stepped out themselves.
Tony is not swearing the way the little boy in the playground did, nor is he flinging curses the way the Irish do - Tony is showing impatience one minute and tenderness the next using the same words.
To a beaming new dad, he might say: "Hey, look at this f--*in' kid, f--*in' beautiful, Alfie. How'd a f--* like you pull this f--*in' thing off? Must look like your f--*in' wife." Smiles all around.
To his own wife another time he might say, "Hey, I told ya, no f--*in' potatoes, I'm on a f--*in' diet ... gotta get rid of this f--*in' gut. Jeez, I could use some f--*in consideration in this f--*in place." All spoken in huffing and puffing disgust, followed by fungula muttered under his breath meaning the "F" word spoken in Italian -- God forbid his wife should think he's swearing.
Perhaps he'll clean up his language if he's talking to a stranger or an old lady, "Excuse my French, but do you have f--*in' change for a f--*in' quarter so I can get a f--*'in' newspaper out of the f--*in' machine?"
After awhile you don't even hear it, but, it is not an exaggeration at all. The writers have it down to the last asterisk.
There were children in "Soprano"-like families who went to our schools, their mothers were soccer moms long before soccer became a popular sport in America. After all, the whole city was the melting pot, and we became a blend of us all. "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "The King of Queens," Fran Dresher in "The Nanny" - none of them particularly special, none of them even alike but all in perfect sync with each other.
Stir in John Edward of "Crossing Over," Jerry Seinfeld, Don Rickles and - belatedly, Louis Armstrong, who was admittedly very special.
When the members of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences cast their votes, I don't think they thought twice about voting for James Gandolfini as best actor in a dramatic series or Edie Falco as best actress in the same category. Perhaps everyone would like to live vicariously as the Sopranos.
The voters didn't go so far as to include "The Sopranos" in the best of the best dramatic series. They chose "West Wing," not that they want to live vicariously as President of the United States, but putting "The Sopranos" ahead of the President, well, that would be like putting "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo over the Bible, by you know Who.
The show has many references to First Holy Communion, Baptism, etc., as important family events. And, there are also references to heinous crimes, dumping bodies, double cross, lying, cheating and all the sins on the list. So it would appear they do not "dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell," words of the Act of Contrition learned at their mother's knee.
Maybe they figure they have connections. Can't you just hear Tony? "Hey, surely somebody in this f--*in' melting pot knows somebody else who can f--*in' smooth things over.."