Jon Ronson on telling his son the worst swearword in the world
Posted On October 23, 2007
My eight-year-old son, Joel, comes into my office to ask if there’s a worse swearword than fuck. “No,” I say.
There’s a silence. “You’re lying,” he says.
“There’s none worse than fuck,” I say.
Joel narrows his eyes. “I know you’re lying,” he says. He leaves the room.
On Saturday I take Joel to Chessington World of Adventures. What a crappy theme park! None the less, we have a wonderful day together.
“You’re a great dad!” Joel says as we drive home.
“And you’re a great son!” I reply with a magical twinkle.
We smile lovingly at each other.
“There is a worse swearword than fuck, isn’t there?” says Joel.
“Yes, there is!” I say, still with a magical twinkle.
“What is it?” asks Joel.
“It’s c…” I begin. I stop. “Uh,” I say.
“Tell me,” says Joel. “I swear this is just for me. I’ll never use it. I just need to know. I will never use it on anyone. I swear. Just tell me.”
I feel clammy and hemmed in. “And you won’t tell Mum we had this conversation?” I say.
“I promise,” says Joel. “Mum will never know.”
There’s a silence. “I can’t tell you,” I say.
“Tell me,” says Joel.
“I can’t,” I say.
“Then why did you almost tell me?” Joel yells.
“Because I wasn’t thinking responsibly!” I yell. “I was swept up in the magic of the moment.”
“You have to tell me,” Joel says. “It’s only fair.”
“Uh,” I say. “I, uh… I…”
I look around the car. For some reason we have an old can of Italian lemonade down on the floor.
“It’s limone,” I say.
There’s a silence.
“Limone?” says Joel.
“That’s the worst swearword of all,” I say. “Limone. But I’m holding you to your promise that you will never use it. OK? Never.”