Rudeness and Defining
the Line between Child
The playground is an environment that is created and circumscribed by the rules of adults. It is striking, then, how much of the folklore on the playground works at observing, criticizing, and refuting the divide between adult and child. Children do not passively accept the definitions of “child” that are imposed from without—they are aware of the realities from which adults try to shield them, and find their own ways to address the world in which they find themselves.
Children's use of rude or “dirty” folklore reveals their awareness of “adult” issues, giving the lie to a complete separation of children and adult concerns in the “real world” of economics, politics, and society. Kids' awareness of their status as Children, and the limits that such a status places on the ways they can respond to the pressures of the world around them, show up starkly in folklore dismissed by adults as rude or even obscene.I am concerned in this chapter with the ways in which Belfast children used rude folklore to mark and question age categories among themselves on the playground. The adult/child divide that we can observe is dependent upon Western constructions of Childhood, and folklore materials reveal children's awareness of and ambivalence toward the very label of Child. In workingclass Northern Ireland, it seems to be particularly difficult to maintain a rigid split between adult and child, and both kids' and parents' awareness