This article derives from an incident which took place while I was doing fieldwork in the North East of England, investigating the structure and experience of childhood. An old lady of my acquaintance, remarking on the quality of the paint used by the National Coal Board on their properties, grumbled that it was 'all ket - rubbish' and that it would peel off in a few months. Before this I had only encountered the word 'ket' among children who used it as their term for sweets, especially cheaper ones. This difference in use intrigued me, particularly when I remembered that sweets, from the adult perspective, are literally the rubbish which children eat between meals.