I used to be standing outdoors a espresso store in Harlem with my two youngsters when my son dropped half of his $4 vegan peanut butter cookie on the sidewalk. As we watched the pigeons peck on the overpriced crumbs, my mind stated, “Sh*t!” However out loud, I stated, “Skarmoosh!”
Should you don’t know what this phrase means, it’s as a result of I made it up. I don’t keep in mind the main points of its origin story, however I imagine this fake curse phrase emerged from the haze of 2020, when my daughter was studying to crawl, and my son was squirming on display in distant pre-Ok. Sleep disadvantaged and mentally drained, I had by no means wanted to curse extra. Maybe it was this desperation that led me to in the future exclaim: “skarmoosh!”
The “sk” sound gave it carry, whereas the “oosh” supplied a delicate touchdown. Foolish and enjoyable to say, the phrase caught on with my youngsters, and shortly grew to become a catchall in our family. When the kids refused to choose up the automobiles, trains, and stuffies protecting the lounge ground, they had been being whole skarmooshes. If I stepped on a free Lego, I yelped, “Skarmoosh!” If my son stole an additional Oreo from the cookie jar, my daughter gleefully tattled, “Miles is being a skarmoo-oosh!”
At any time when he heard us say it, my husband shook his head. “Can somebody inform me what this phrase means?”
“If you already know, you already know,” I reply with a smile.
My husband and I each grew up in restrictive households, and had been decided to create a extra open surroundings the place our children felt snug questioning the world round them. To that finish, we’ve got a sequence of images of an artist giving the center finger to varied landmarks hanging in our front room. For sure, our children benefit from the freedom of a extra egalitarian strategy to parenting. Already, at 8 and three, they’re extra outspoken than I had ever been at these ages. But we’ve got up to now shunned cursing round our children and may’t abdomen the concept of them swearing at us.
Earlier than skarmoosh, I used to be, sarcastically, each the enforcer of the no-cursing coverage and the one most more likely to break it. I attempted borrowing cute phrases, like “Cheese and crackers!” and “Biscuits!” from the animated sequence Bluey. For some time, I used, “Soggy samosas!” from the present Mira Royal Detective, a cultural reference expensive to my childhood. If the writers on these reveals had been telling me something, it was that I wasn’t the one one on the lookout for options to swearing. These food-inspired fake curses had been enjoyable for some time, however short-lived.
Skarmoosh was the work-around that really caught. It made my youngsters giggle, and it allowed me to blow off steam. Let’s imagine it in public with out offending anybody, but all of us knew what it meant. Not solely was customizing a curse phrase a useful approach to keep away from actual curse phrases, it was weirdly bonding, making a shared language inside our household.
Like all phases of childhood, I knew this period wouldn’t final ceaselessly. However the invention of skarmoosh was a reminder that parenting didn’t all the time need to be heavy and critical. It was doable to be playful, lighthearted, and simply as efficient.
In a writing class, I lately learn from John Koenig’s The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a e-book of phrases invented to explain the feelings we really feel however can’t describe. There have been made-up phrases like plata rasa, which refers to “the lulling sound of a working dishwasher,” or chrysalism, outlined as “the amniotic tranquility of being indoors throughout a thunderstorm.” I beloved the concept of increasing language on this manner, particularly when it got here to parenting. There weren’t sufficient phrases within the English language to seize the vary of feelings I may really feel in a cut up second. If I needed to outline skarmoosh, I might say: somebody who’s irritating you to the purpose of explosion, however who you additionally love and need to tickle.
In penning this piece, I found that “scaramouch” is definitely an actual phrase, with French and Italian roots. Pronounced in another way than our model, it referred to a personality within the comedia dell’arte, a interval of European theater relationship again to the 1600s. The secondary meanings on Merriam Webster had been “rascal or scamp.”
Had my sleep-deprived mind appropriated this phrase from some obscure faculty course buried in my unconscious? Or a long-forgotten lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”? I couldn’t be certain, however I made a decision it didn’t matter. Skarmoosh was ours now, and we weren’t giving it again.
Sumitra Mattai is a New York Metropolis-based author, textile designer and mom of two. She holds a BFA in Textile Design from the Rhode Island College of Design and an MFA in Artistic Writing from The New College.