I got into trouble for all sorts of things in school. But it was always for little things, subtle trouble. I was a good student when it came to grades so I didn’t get harangued like the kids who actually needed some patience and understanding.

This would have been around grade 1 or 2. I recall a strip of colourful alphabet letters and pictures running along the inside wall of some room. It might have been the cloak room, it might have been a teacher’s office. It had the usual, A for Apple, B for Box. All very obvious and self-explanatory for the most part. N had a picture of a nun. There was any number of objects they could have chosen and they thought nun was perfectly reasonable. I’m sure I might have if I’d given it much thought. I knew what nuns were, I was raised a catholic. One of my grandmother’s sisters was a nun and lived in a house with other nuns. I’d seen them. I knew that they resembled this picture.

For some reason, likely trying to be the most clever person in the room (I started early) when asked what the N stood for, I said Nincompoop. I can’t even tell you where I learned that word. The teacher was a certain degree of shocked. Three syllable words weren’t terribly common in our grade level, and neither was nincompoop, apparently. And she handled it so badly. SO MUCH. She immediately demanded I never say that word again. Which made everyone else think it was incredibly taboo, the result being that an entire class of 7 years olds suddenly started shouting nincompoop. It was a good lesson for me. It might have been the first time I comprehended that adults did not understand everything. A lesson which has proven helpful and true, time and again.

And I’ve never really been able to look at nuns the same way either.