Your sibilings’s kids at a certain age are fascinated by gross things. They all at once express disgust and intense interest at gooey, smelly, sticky, nasty liquids, semi-liquids and semi-solids. What do you do to capture their highly refined sense of disgust?

This all-consuming focus on disgusting things must be a deep-seated, perhaps even archaic-deep-in-the-brain-stem survival mechanism. You can imagine stone-age nieces and nephews roaming out and about the savannah, looking for stuff to eat and watching out for stuff that could kill them, such as crocodiles, snakes, lions, leopards, hyenas, rhinos, hippos, buffaloes and yes even ostriches. This intrepid little band of nieces and nephews errantly wanders into a liquefying mass of bones, hide, tissue and squirming fly larvae. The conversation might go like this:

“Eeeeeewwww, aaaaackkk whooooo yaaah sheesh aaaaayeee!”
“Oya oya oya, aye yae yae, whoyah.”
“Naaa naaa naaa, onnooo noo, waaaahhh.”

Let me translate:
“Eeeeeewwww, aaaaackkk whooooo yaaah sheesh aaaaayeee!” (“What the…? You have to be kidding me.”)
“Oya oya oya, aye yae yae, whoyah.” (“What is that smell? Should we eat it?)
“Naaa naaa naaa, onnooo noo, waaaahhh.” (“You first. I’m going to puke. Let’s get the grok out of here… wait, what are those wiggly things squirming around in there? Get a stick and poke it.”)

As they encounter a seeping puddle of something green and slimy, your nieces and nephews can rely on their intense interest to keep them in full observation mode, but their sense of smell and taste (if they get that far) will keep them from ingesting at least huge quantities of suppurating masses.

Kids have a deep-seated interested in all things gross and disgusting. And they have names for these items, but they aren’t their real names.

You can add a touch higher learning and yes elegance by teaching your nieces and nephews the proper names for those things that simultaneously attract and repel them. Here are some substances that draw the rapt attention of your nieces and nephews, and which real names they will forever appreciate learning. (The child’s translation is in parentheses).

Nasal crust (boogers).
Flatulence (farts).
Mucus or nasal discharge (snot).
Maggots or fly larvae (Eeeeww, what ARE those things?)
Feces, scat, or spoor (poop and, well, let’s leave it a that).
Humus. (icky rotting plant stuff).
Carrion. (icky rotting animal stuff).
Mold. (mold).
Fungus. (toadstools).
Cerumen. (ear wax).
Saliva (spit, drool).
Lachrymal fluid. (tears).
Pus (pus).
Vomitus (puke).

And Floaters. If you introduce floaters, be prepared for stunned silence. Those floaty things in your field of vision tend to increase as you get older, so young kids may have no earthly idea what you are talking about.

So the next time you and your intrepid little band of nieces and nephews encounter something disgusting, you can cheerily produce all the proper names they need to call out all that they observe.

“That pile of carrion harbors a dandy collection of immature blowfly larvae and the whole thing smells like spoor and flatulence and humus. It makes my eyes fill with lachrymal fluid and my nose with mucus. I may have to vomit so hard that it will discharge cerumen from my head. Let’s look for a minute. Who wants to taste it? Me neither. Glad I didn’t step in it.

Hey, who wants ice cream?”

Body parts, too, have both technical colloquial names. That’s for another day.

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