The grown-ups may not think little Timmy is paying attention to the hushed, worried conversations or TV news reports, but little pitchers have big ears. Timmy has overheard a new word, but he doesn't know what it means. Because he is Constantly Curious
, he decides to wait until the family is gathered round to ask, "Daddy, what's a _____?"
The word that Timmy wants defined may not necessarily be a "dirty" word. It might be a word that relates to the elephant in the room, the problem that the adults have been trying to avoid thinking about up until now. Or it might just be a complicated or controversial topic that Mom and Dad don't feel prepared to explain. If anyone bothers to define the word at all, expect throat-clearing and an awkward conversation to follow.
The situation can be Played for Drama
but more often it's Played for Laughs
, especially if the question necessitates The Talk
. In this case, the anxiety isn't so much about the topic itself as it is about prematurely shattering Little Timmy's innocence
Compare to Armor-Piercing Question
Anime and Manga
- In the manga version of AKIRA, the military declares martial law in Neo-Tokyo just before the second awakening of the title character levels most of the city and things get really ugly. In a cut away from the main action of the comic, an anonymous family wakes up to see tanks rolling down their neighborhood street. At breakfast, one of the children asks his father to define "coup d'etat".
- Comedian Gabriel Iglesias has incorporated his family's experiences into part of his comedy act. Namely, his biological son. Gabriel once told him that if his son had anything to ask him, he'd answer it. One night, his son was watching TV and saw a commercial advertising Girls Gone Wild-esque videos about hookers. His son asked what a hooker was, and Gabriel knew it wasn't right to tell him. He started making a fuss saying that he'd tell him anything if he asked, and Gabriel's girlfriend starts yelling at him for upsetting him. There was no way he could get out of that situation. He eventually tried to tell him in as kid-friendly a manner as possible, all the while his girlfriend was glaring him down.
- Mafalda : after hearing the weather forecaster talk about "millibars", she asks her father what it means. As he starts to explain it's a unit of pressure, she clarifies that she said "millibars", not "military".
- In the British nuclear holocaust docudrama Threads, Jimmy Kemp's sudden decision to marry his girlfriend without an engagement prompts his bratty younger brother to ask what an abortion is.
- Clint Eastwood played Detective Wes Block in Tightrope from 1984. While driving with his two daughters, young Penny Block inquires, "Daddy, what's a hard on?" Cue Eastwood doing a Spit Take into the windshield. The situation is made worse by Penny's older sister, Amanda, giggling mercilessly at her father's discomfort.
- Averted in Yu Gi Oh Abridged: playing Ping-Pong Naïveté for all it's worth, Tristan asks Joey what sex is. Joey is about to answer, but Téa stops him, reminding him Tristan must not be allowed to breed.
- Parodied in a brief storyarc in IDGet: a father and his toddler daughter watch a baseball game on television, when a trailer for Zack and Miri Make a Porno is played, prompting the girl to ask her father what a "pawerno" is. The father freaks out, and enlists the aide of incompetent superhero, Captain Childcare, who comes up with a series of ridiculous and ludicrous solutions, only to be solved by the girl's teenager brother who explains to her, "It's something you don't need to know about until you're older."