At first I thought it wasn’t a real word. It was just something that came to mind-probably due to an overabundance of the Nickelodeon cartoons that my son can?t get enough of.

Persnickety.

An odd enough sounding word that would fool my 4-year old son in a way that I felt necessary.

Persnickety.

My greatest triumph as a father and also my biggest failing, for I allowed my morals and the upbringing of my child to be compromised.

Let me explain…

My son is a good boy. He minds my wife and me. He picks up after himself (with a little prodding). He even minds us when we’re out in public. But a few months ago, someone told him that is was fun to use certain words that I don’t choose to use in this website. I tried punishing him to no avail. He just cursed more discreetly. I tried to ignore it, but that just grated on my nerves. Something had to give. Enter persnickety.

Let me introduce to you Merriam-Webster?s definition of this word.

Main Entry: per?snick?e?ty
Pronunciation: p&r-’sni-k&-tE
Function: adjective
Etymology: alteration of pernickety
Date: circa 1905

  1. fussy about small details : FASTIDIOUS (a persnickety teacher)
  2. having the characteristics of a snob
  3. requiring great precision (a persnickety job)

My son was out playing and he hurt himself. He came to me crying and I caught a few of those words that had been driving me up the wall, so I took that moment as my time to shine.

    “Hey Ben, that really hurts, doesn’t it? I’m going to tell you a word that I use when something really hurts, but you have to promise me that you won’t say it unless something hurts so bad you can’t stand it, because it is the worstbad word out there and you could get in a lot of trouble if you say it when you’re not at home. That word…is persnickety. Why don’t you try it out?”

”OK, persnickety… Hey, I feel better! Persnickety, persnickety, per…”

”Whoa, whoa, whoa! You only say that terrible word when something hurts so you can feel better, then you have to stop. If you keep on saying it, you could get in so much trouble, and don’t tell your mom that I told you that word, either. I don’t want her to get mad at me! It’s our secret.”

And it has worked for us for over a year now. Either that, or my son has gotten extremely good at hiding his cursing. How do I know it works? He heard a boy saying a bad word at the park and let him in on our secret. The boy looked at him funny, but he walked away feeling good about his better mastery of “dirty” vocabulary. That’s one way I know it worked.

The other way involved a case of the stomach flu Ben had just a few months ago. He was in the bathroom in the middle of the night. He sat on the toilet and held a bucket under his chin, rocking back and forth with the pain. I felt so sorry for him. Then, out of the blue, he started whining, “Persnickety, persnickety,persnickety, persnickety…I’m sorry mommy, but it hurts so bad. Persnickety, persnickety,persnickety!”

Maybe I made up a new bad word, maybe not. But I feel pretty good about this aspect of my parenting.