Ivie is a stickler to the rules when it comes to what words she should and should not say.
For example, when she first started talking and using exclamatory words/phrases, I put the kibosh on the word "gosh" in our house. I did so because, every time she would start to say "Oh my gosh!", I was overly concerned that "God" might accidentally slip out (which I personally view as unacceptable). And I cringed every time.
So I quickly changed our family over to "goodness" (as in, "oh my goodness!"), and explained to Ivie that we don't say "gosh" in our family.
Well, this is all fine and dandy, except that everyone else in the world uses this socially-acceptable word with regularity. Including my mom (Nina). So any time we are around my parents and my mom says "gosh", Ivie says, "Ohhhhh, Niiiiiina, you're not supposed to saaaaaaaay that wooooooord!".
As a result, I've had to start trying to explain that, while we don't say it in our family, it's not really a "bad word", and that she's going to hear other people say it a lot. So she doesn't need to throw them under the bus publicly if they do.
Anyway, it's fairly often that Ivie will randomly ask me, "Mommy, is (fill in the word here) a bad word?".
A lot of times, my response seems to be along the lines of, "No, 'rude' is not a bad word, Ivie, but you have to be very careful of when you use it. You wouldn't want to call someone 'rude'." She seems to understand this distinction.
Last night, right before the girls got into the bathtub, we had the following conversation:
Ivie: Mommy, is 'holy cow!' a bad word?
Me (following my pattern with these sorts of questions): Nope, 'holy cow!' is not a bad word. But you should be careful of when you use it.
Ivie: You mean that I shouldn't call someone a 'holy cow', right?
Me (laughing under my breath): Ummmm, yeah, that's right!
She then proceeded to look into the tub and exclaim, "Holy cow! There are a LOT of toys in there!".
Yes, there are, Iv. I think you've got the meaning of "holy cow" down pat...