Everything I don’t Know About Boys and All the New French Words I’ve Learned

To hear a full grown woman with a medical degree ask another full grown woman how many “pee-pees” and “ka-kas” she has a day is off-putting. I asked a Francophone and translator friend of mine about this and she said it’s a common French idiom, at least in Quebec. I don’t care how common it is. It’s infantilizing and it makes me uncomfortable.

While on the subject, my friend and I discussed another word, one I have just recently learned: zi-zi, meaning penis. It is similar in tone to the way a child might say wee-wee, but more widely used. I first heard it in a conversation between two of Joanie’s caregivers at daycare, Lise and Esfir.

(I’ve translated their conversation because my French grammar is hopeless.)

Lise: Why is Lawrence wet?

Esfir: He is not. Is he?

Lise: He is. Touch his leg.

Esfir: (With her thumb and index finger around Lawrence fat baby thigh) Eh? It makes no sense I just changes him.

Lise: (Taking Lawrence to the change table. Bursting with laughter after removing the diaper) Esfir, Esfir, comes see. You put his zi-zi to the side and he peed out the leg hole.

Two things strike me about this exchange. One: adults can call a penis zi-zi in conversation with each other and apparently it’s not weird. Two: parents of boys have to worry about the direction of the zi-zi. It has occurred to me that while I have learned so much about parenting, and I understand that gender is fluid, and I believe that most of what is true for baby girls is true for baby boys, there are things about boys that will never apply to girls. I am so glad that I never have to worry about zi-zi direction. That is unless I have another child and it’s a boy. Then I’ll be fluent in zi-zi and speak comfortably about pee-pee direction with all the other full grown adults.

Note: I asked my friend if there was a female equivalent to zi-zi and there isn’t. Any word she came up with was either vulgar or Georgio O’Keefe.

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