Wednesday, July 03, 2013

On yogurt pots, helpful small people, and vocabulary...

I wrote, some years ago, about our various uses of yogurt pots. I make my own yogurt now, so it's rare to buy a new litre tub... however, we keep quite a few, which - during the winter months - sit on top of our fridge.

In Summer, however, they have an important use.  If you visit our house, you will quite likely see something like this:

If you do, please don't lift it up out of curiosity, or because you think it was put there by mistake. The likelihood is that there will be an unpleasant large dead insect underneath it. Probably lying on its back, possibly with legs faintly wriggling, but most likely no longer alive. However, just occasionally they seem to get a new lease of life and, if released unexpectedly, will scuttle away to dark corners.

What kind of insect?  

Nine letters, starting with c. In fact there are three instances of 'c' in the word.  Even after living here over 15 years, I still find it hard to write or type the word without a shudder.  

I have made progress: no longer do I scream and rush out of a room when I see one. Sometimes I squeak a little, but usually I grab a spray bottle of Biokill and use a great deal of it when chasing this unpleasant insect-which-shall-not-be-named. And, yogurt pot in hand, I attempt to capture it.  Then it stays there until someone - usually Richard - disposes of it. I have, on occasion, resorted to using a long broom and carefully sweeping it through the house to the back door, and then over the edge of the balcony... but I prefer not to. 

Anyway, during the summer months, despite our being careful about closing windows at night, and putting plugs in sinks, two or three of these unpleasant creatures manage to get into our house every week. 

Last week, Richard was away.  By the time he returned, late Sunday, there were two upside-down yogurt pots in the small loo on our main floor. Tuesday morning early, I caught another. I thought I might mention it to him at some point, as he doesn't always notice them. 


On Tuesday mornings, my friend Sheila comes over with two or three of her little girls. Her youngest, E, who just turned three, very much likes sweeping up these nasty insects (which are captured in a similar way in their house). So when she used the toilet yesterday, she emerged and asked me very politely if she could sweep them up.  I was hardly going to refuse, so I agreed that she could, and went to fetch the dustpan and brush. 

I kept out of the way while she upturned all the yogurt pots, and carefully swept the three (thankfully not alive) insects-which-shall-not-be-named onto the dustpan. Then she insisted on taking them through to the kitchen rubbish bin, but she carried them carefully and they were all, to my great relief, disposed of.  

I thanked her profusely. 

I also remembered that E's usual fee for disposing of these insects is 5c. That's 5c per insect. I feel that this is excellent value, and would willingly pay more; but that would hardly be fair to those who use her insect-sweeping services more regularly than I do. Besides, she's three, and is happy to have any money. I hope this is not, ethically speaking, exploitation of the young... 

So I dug in a pot of change and produced three 5c pieces, which I duly handed to her. She clutched them in her hand for a while, then managed to drop one. Sheila suggested she put them in her camera pocket until they got home, but E wanted to hold them herself. In discussing them, I used the word 'coins' and E turned to me, and said, 

'Mommy doesn't call them coins.' 

'Oh?' said I. 'What does she call them, then?

E frowned a little, then said, a little hesitantly, 'She says "trash".' 

'She does?' I doubt if my eyebrows could have got any higher. I glanced at Sheila, who shook her head and shrugged. No, she assured me, she didn't count ANY coins as trash. Not even the one-cent pieces which aren't really a whole lot of use. 

E frowned a little. She's a very reasonable little girl, and if her Mommy said that she didn't call them trash, she realised that perhaps she didn't have the word quite right. 

'Maybe "crash"?''  she said. 

All was clear.  Until relatively recently, E had a very cute way of muddling up t and c in quite a few words.  "I tan't do it!" was a frequent cry. Her cheerful 'Otay!' was much happier. Perhaps, I thought, she was still occasionally confusing the two. And - in this case - adding an 'r'. 

'Do you mean "cash"?' I asked. 

'Yes! Cash! That's what Mommy says. Not coins.

Sheila said that she would use either word, and there was then a brief discussion with the older girls about the differences between cash, coins, money and one or two other related words... 

I love small children, and also informal home education. There are so many teaching moments :-) 


Anvilcloud said...

I think Canada is the place for me.

DaisyCrazy said...

I loath this awful creatures. Hadn´t thought of the upturned yogurt pots but find it a marvelous idea :)
I shall use it in the future.
Some years back we had a Jack Russel Terrier that lived with us and he used to hunt them down, kill them and carry them outside the house. For 3,5 years we never saw an alive one!
Since we had to give him to another family (we moved and couldn´t unfortunately take him with us) every summer when I see an awful black insect I miss him so much!

Gina said...

Oh man, I loathe those things with a passion. Just the skittery noise they make causes my flesh to crawl!

Steve Hayes said...

Nameless that begin with c, and coins that begin with c?

Perhaps you need to see a Parktown prawn!