But it's not just a comprehension problem. Gareth has picked up words before that we knew he didn't understand. One of his toys has an electronic voice that names colors, so he started imitating the way it said red! long before he had any idea what red was. Red was the first color he could actually identify, but that was months later.
It's the parrot imitation I worry about when I consider my little swearing problem.
I've lived in New Jersey a long time. Oh, and I had a run-in when I was a kid with a child psychologist who thought I'd be a happier person if I swore when I was angry. It's possible he was right about that, though as an adult I've wondered if he didn't just like hearing little girls talk dirty. No way of knowing, now. In any case, foul language is a hard habit to turn off, and harder for having been acquired early under conditions of adult approval.
I'm used to policing myself when I'm teaching, but most days I spend nine hours at a stretch on baby duty. You try going nine straight hours without uttering a single profanity. It's harder than you'd think.
My sister, who swears less than I do despite being a divorce litigator, discovered when her older daughter was two that little K had not only learned the word motherfucker, but had learned to say it in good Samuel L. Jackson style, muthafucka, and in its correct context in a sentence.
Every time I have a Blagojevich-mouthed moment in Gareth's hearing, I remember the relish with which my niece said that word and the chagrin with which my sister heard it, and I think, Oh, Sarah, this could happen to you.