“What’s the word that means ‘careful’ that starts with ‘reck’?”

Stone carving of the animals of the Chinese zodiac at the Qingyanggong temple, Chengdu, Sichuan, China. (Image: Felix Andrews via Wikipedia)

As part of their Chinese New Year celebration last week, The Four-Year-Old’s preschool handed out little cards that explained the various signs of the Chinese zodiac. This was the first time The Four-Year-Old had been told that she was born in the year of the Pig, and I don’t think she was that happy about it. (This is no slight toward Pigs, more a reflection of the fact that cats are The Four-Year-Old’s favorite animal. She wanted to be a Tiger.)

Fortunately, I remembered that she was no mere Pig, but a Golden Pig, which is even luckier. Learning that she was associated with gold had the predictable happy effect, and The Four-Year-Old was ready to learn the qualities of a Pig.

The card her teachers handed out was simple. Under “Good,” it stated that “Pigs will always put others before themselves.” Under “Bad,” it said that “Pigs can be reckless.”

The Four-Year-Old: “What’s reckless?”

After I explained, The Four-Year-Old immediately asked: “What’s the word that means careful that starts with reck?”

I couldn’t think of any off-hand. (Still can’t, as a matter of fact. Can you?)

But it turns out that as usual, The Four-Year-Old was on to something. Although today reckless is a word unto itself, it hasn’t always been this way. Once upon a time, reckless was the opposite of reck, an archaic verb that meant “to take heed of or to have caution.”

“Mommyo!” The Four-Year-Old said excitedly, “I could still use it that way!”

Happy (belated) Chinese New Year, y’all.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Ask the iPhone, Linguistics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “What’s the word that means ‘careful’ that starts with ‘reck’?”

  1. Paul says:

    A good reckoner would be a careful one. Is that close enough?


    • Shala Howell says:

      I will have to check with my panel of Four-Year-Old judges. Unfortunately she is not speaking to me at the moment bc it’s bath day and she is in hiding. Every once in a while, she takes this whole being a cat thing too seriously.


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