My husband was born in Toulouse. As the stereotype goes, this means that he peppers his French with a certain colorful vocabulary.
Putain (a woman of ill-repute) and con (a common insult inadequately translated as moron) are Toulousain punctuation. A Parisian will swear to make a point, but a Toulousain will swear to give directions to the post office.
So my admonitions to pay attention to our usage of language around the tender ears of le Petit mostly fell upon my husband's deaf ones. "If he doesn't learn it from me, he'll learn it at school," he'd say with a shrug. Perhaps, I admitted, but I'd rather it not be my kid teaching the others.
Then on Sunday night, le Petit started to repeat a new sound: "pe-ta, pe-ta, pe-ta, pe-ta, pe-ta." I feared for the worst.
"Listen to him! I told you to be careful of what you said around him, and now it's too late!"
"He's not saying putain, putain! He's saying pe-ta!" my husband said, irritated. I burst out laughing. Le Petit observed us quietly, taking notes.
On Monday evening, le Petit and I dropped by my mother-in-law's house. I told her the story as le Petit played quietly in a corner. When I finished and before we even had a chance to chuckle together at my husband's naiveté, le Petit added his take on the situation.
He said something that for all the world sounded like "et putain." My mother-in-law and I looked at each other, first with our jaws dropped, then trying hard not to laugh.
It may have been an accident. For the moment, I'm going to leave those syllables unclassified and do my best to show no reaction if I hear them again. But at least my husband believes me now. . .