Care and Feeding

My Baby Brother’s Speech Impediment Makes Him Call Dump Trucks “Dumb Cucks”

How do I explain this to my parents, who are not on the internet?

Photo illustration of a child playing with toy trucks while a young woman facepalms.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by McIninch/iStock/Getty Images Plus and visual7/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a woman in my 20s helping my mom and stepdad raise my much younger siblings. One of these younger siblings is 28 months old and figuring out words. He also loves all things transportation. The word he says most often is truck, except it comes out cuck.

Neither my mom or stepdad know much about internet culture or social media. They don’t know “cuck” is kind of a swear word now, so they think it’s super cute and kind of encourage it in a way I know they wouldn’t if he was accidentally saying the F-word.

Logically I know I should say something, but I super do not want to explain to my parents that the baby is accidentally saying a far right-wing insult with ties to “ironic” Nazism and racist porn, or answer the inevitable questions about why I know that. To make matters worse, I just found out my extremely online aunt is coming for a visit. If she says something I know it’s bound to be far less gentle than if I do.

So what do I do? Do I tell them? Do I let it go and let my aunt notice? Do I just knuckle down until the baby can pronounce his Ts correctly? I don’t want to confuse him or make him feel bad above all. This is the silliest problem I have ever had in my life and I am at a complete loss with it.

— Baby Loves “Dumb Cucks” (Dump Trucks)

Dear BLDC,

When my daughter was 5, my mom attempted to help her understand the varying body types found among her Barbie dolls and their buddies. Thus, “Dick Ken” (aka “Thick Ken,” as in slightly heftier than some of her other male fashion dolls) was born. No matter how hard we tried to correct her adorable widdle mispronunciation, she just couldn’t stop saying it. Because I am an extremely online mom, I posted video for all the world to see.

Alas, Dick Ken isn’t quite as potentially troublesome as, say, an outburst of “Dumb Cuck” on the playground. (It would absolutely happen in the presence of an extremely online college professor-looking dad with heightened sensitivity to the modern reimagining of cuckoldry.)

Explain the term to your mom and stepdad. Be very clear that it is absolutely ridiculous and the idea of getting angry at a 2-year-old over it is equally ridiculous, but that this language can be harmful and offensive. This is a good time to try working on that those tricky plosives with the little guy.

—Jamilah