“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.


    • 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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