Zoe swears like a sailor. The researchers at the University of Illinois' Language Acquisition Lab told Biff that new studies suggest that toddlers learn large groups of words by what they call data mining. Data mining, usually computer assisted, involves analyzing and sorting through massive amounts of raw data to find relationships, correlations, and useful information. This theory suggests that the human brain accumulates large amounts of data minute by minute, day by day, and handles this data processing automatically and it could contribute to a "system" approach to language learning that helps explain the ease with which some toddlers can learn multiple words at once. In other words, Zoe's swearing habit could be attributed to the massive amounts of raw data (in this case cuss words) she absorbs each day. What Bunna and Biff don't understand is where she gets the "raw data." They have never been known to utter profanities; they don't allow Zoe to watch HBO (they don't even have cable); and she hasn't been a merchant marine, as far as they know. In case you're wondering, here are some of Zoe's most frequent expletives and the best explanations Bunna and Biff can conjure:
F*&# translates as frog. (They know this because Zoe's favorite bath towel is a frog. Unless that towel is dirty Zoe usually gets out of the bathtub saying, "F*&#! F*&#! F*&#!")
F*&#er translates as finger. (Bunna and Biff first heard this after a checking out a board book about body parts from the public library. Zoe has a hand and ten f*&#ers.)
S*%t translates as shirt. (Zoe used to say "s*%t" as she crawled around looking for things to play with. Bunna and Biff now hear this most often when they try to dress Zoe in the morning. They originally thought she was angry about having a hard time getting her arms in the sleeves, but now they think she's just fashion conscious and doesn't want to wear that dumb s*%t.)
B^$%h translates as spoon. (Zoe can't say spoon. B^$%h is the closest she can get. Recently, however, she has cleaned up her language; she is more likely to use butts now to the great relief of her parents.)
Bunna and Biff are keeping a close eye on all her little friends just to see where she's picking this up. They have a pretty good idea. In the meantime they are encouraging her to broaden her vocabulary in the hopes that she will someday break the habit.
The culprits: Zoe and some of her potty-mouthed friends.