Reading Aloud to Kids: The P Word in Children's Literature

Reading Aloud to Kids: The P Word in Children's Literature

Katie Steuernagle
Oct 26, 2012

Books are such an important part of a child's upbringing, and reading to your little one is beneficial on so many levels. But there are a couple of books my daughter has that use a particular word to such excess that it, well, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I know it means "cat". And I know that language evolves over time. And I swear I'm not a big prude. But the word "pussy" as used to mean "cat" had pretty much fallen out of use by the time I was a kid, except for a few random Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. The other definitions are the ones I'm more familiar with. So when a page is dripping with the word, it's a little hard for me to read, especially when it's paired with descriptive words like "my sweet" and especially when my older kids are within earshot. I'm not so bothered when it pops up once or twice in a nursery rhyme, and I'm not squeamish at all if the entire phrase "pussycat" is used. But I'll admit, I've encountered a few books of fairy tales where I've actually substituted the word "kitty" when reading aloud to my daughter. Yes, I'm a cunning linguist.

What about you? Do you feel squeamish when reading the "P" word aloud to your kids? Do you cringe a little when they pick those books off the shelf? Do you substitute the word "kitty"? Or do you proudly proclaim the archaic cat word? Would you frame an alphabet print that showed a cat illustration for "P"?

(Image: Katie Steuernagle)

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