Remember when you learned hell was a place, an ass was an animal, and there were two kinds of dam? It was such fun to toss around those naughty words in front of our parents.
I'm experiencing that giddiness today. Because I get to use the T-word.
Here goes: Tidewater.
On occasion, I've tried to sneak the T-word into print. Most times, I was thwarted by stern editors, reminding me that Tidewater doesn't exist.
Neither does Atlantis, I once argued, but I'm allowed to mention that.
No dice, I was told.
Here's what our stylebook - the newsroom bible - has to say about the T-word:
Tidewater: Use Hampton Roads...
Regional honchos set out to eradicate "Tidewater" from the lexicon a few years ago. They wanted to replace it with the geographically vague "Hampton Roads."
I never describe our little corner of Virginia as Hampton Roads. Neither does anyone else. When asked, I tell people I'm from Virginia Beach. Or Tidewater. Or the Norfolk area (sorry, Meyera).
A story about our murky moniker in Friday's Pilot noted that even The Weather Channel prefers "Norfolk or the Tidewater of Virginia" to "Hampton Roads."
We've been bullied into using Hampton Roads over the past two decades. Still, no one does. The biggest victory for this futile effort came when the post office agreed to stick "Hampton Roads" on our postmarks.
As if postmarks matter.
Genuflecting at the altar of regionalism, the newspaper and TV stations foolishly joined the movement to purge our area of its poetic name.
Pity. Because Tidewater rolls off the tongue and makes you think of, well, tidewater. Hampton Roads makes you think of roads. Ugh.
One entity that's wisely resisted the regionally correct crowd is the airport.
It's Norfolk International Airport. If you don't like it, land somewhere else.
"It will never be the Hampton Roads Airport as long as I'm chairman," declared Peter G. Decker, Norfolk lawyer and chairman of the airport authority. "If we had to change the name, it would be something like the Tidewater Airport.
"Now that's got a special ring to it."
Bless you, Uncle Pete.
Decker said Friday he has a soft spot for "Tidewater" and that he and his wife never tell anyone they're from a place called Hampton Roads.
"You go to Europe and say you're from Tidewater or Norfolk and people know what you're talking about," Decker said. "You say Hampton Roads, and they have no idea."
Yes, Hampton Roads has historical roots. Something to do with nautical terms from the 17th or 18th century. I hesitate to point this out, but it is the 21st century.
We've lost our powdered wigs and monocles. If only we could lose Hampton Roads, too.
A version of this story ran in The Virginian-Pilot on June 8, 2008.