Briefly Noted: Parental Profanity


“Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect,” writes journalist Karen Spears Zacharias in a recent CNN essay. Nobody, that is, except Zacharias, and possibly Joan Demarest, who “has good reason to be concerned about the message behind such a parody” because she “was the prosecuting attorney in one of Oregon’s most high-profile child murder cases.” Also David Arredondo, “an expert on child development” who asks Zacharias to “imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims, or Latinos.”

I admit that is hard to imagineâ€"not because it’s horrifying but because it makes no sense. Mansbach’s “children’s book for grown-ups,” Go the Fuck to Sleep (Akashic), is funny because it works against expectations, juxtaposing profane rebukes with the calm cadences and sweet illustrations of a bedtime story. The point that Zacharias and her pals miss: If you see nothing wrong with talking to your kids this way, the humor will be lost on you. â€"Jacob Sullum