Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Childhood, Redux

Erika and I are reading Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing together. And it's pretty amazing, considering it was published over 30 years ago, how well that book has held up. It's still hilarious and poignant and incredibly relevant - despite the introduction of the internet and cell phones and Wii, I guess being nine years old isn't that different now than it was back in 1976.

So I get why the true gems of my childhood (and some from my parents' childhoods, as well) are still popular with kids today - Dr. Seuss and E.B. White, Star Wars and Monopoly. I think that "Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9," is a classic joke, perfect for kids just starting to learn about the creative uses of language, and I agree that, "I'm rubber, you're glue," is so catchy and condescending it will probably be around until the end of time.

But I'll tell you what I just don't get: nanny, nanny, poo, poo.

What is so freakin' special about that meaningless insult that it should survive from generation to generation?

Maybe I should ask Aaron, Gretchen and Ronan. They use it every day - when they jump into the coveted middle carseat, or get an extra segment of clementine, or commandeer one of the 14 doll strollers we own.

Honestly, I don't think they really need a reason.

Maybe nanny, nanny, poo, poo is onomatopoetic on some primitive level, embodying glee and superiority and plain old button pushing more perfectly than a more articulate taunt ever could.

Or maybe, "I'm rubber, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you, but I have a net that catches all the good words," is a little too much to expect from someone who can't yet handle the intricacies of "Frosty the Noseman."

What I want to know is, given that I've been hearing it my entire life, given its enduring and prominent position in our cultural lexicon, why is nanny, nanny poo poo still so excruciatingly irritating - not just to the kids, but to me?

1 comment:

Lauren said...

One of the more interesting things I remember learning in my Music Theory class (or, just one of the few things I haven't forgotten) is the fact that the minor third interval--the interval you make when you sing, "nyah, nyah, nyahnyah, nyah"--is a taunting sound in just about every culture.

So there very well may be some kind of universal quality to it.