As a lover of language, I’ve enjoyed watching Robin’s verbal skills evolve. I still misunderstand him sometimes, but at 4, he is able to rephrase or clarify. He is even able to think me lame for all that I misinterpret, and to verbalize his low opinion of me, sometimes quite creatively! So lest you be mistaken for an idiot too, here is a primer on 4-year-old speak, straight from my Robin’s beak.
Why say it in 10 words when you can say it in 30? What a gift, after all those months of futile crying and mumbling shyness. To wake up one morning speaking in complete, run-on sentences, able to narrate each thought and idea with a paragraph! Some mornings it is hard to get the toothbrush in. My sudden chatterbox!
The failure of logic
I’ve struggled to learn some Italian and pity anyone learning English. Robin’s errors are predictable. They run on perfect logic and expose every exception and failure in our complex language. His choices make more sense:
Goed (gode) – past tense of go; went: “I goed to the store.”
Tattoon (tat-TOON) – tattoo, though usually a temporary one of a character he likes
Heared (heerd) – past tense of hear; heard: “Mommy, I heared you! OK?! Stop talking.”
See also: builded (built), runned (ran), puted (put)
Leafes (leef-EZ) – plural of leaf; leaves: “I picked some leafes for you.”
Mine’s (minze) – first person possessive; mine: “Don’t eat that cookie, Mom. It’s mine’s. No, mommy. Please! It’s mine’s. You already eated the other five.”
When I heard a friend’s daughter say mine’s at a barbeque a year ago, I expressed relief. Oh yeah, she laughed. Everyone’s saying it. Pretty reassuring that the child of two PhDs is stuck in the same grammar tar pit. (Of course a year later my son is still saying it, and I’m pretty sure their daughter has moved on to writing sonnets or concerti for violin.)
The thing about mine’s is it’s impossible to eradicate. While I trust Robin will outgrow the bad grammar, I do repeat things back to him conversationally, slipping in the correction so he hears it. “Oh, you went to the store? That sounds like fun.” But I can’t repeat mine without a turf war.
This word is a fixture of Gen X speech. Over the years I’ve chided Randy: “Honey, you just said actually twice in one sentence.” We were bound to hear our offspring echo it. When he used it a couple years ago, he sounded precocious. (Surely thus would follow.) Now that he says it so regularly, he just sounds like us. Why do we overuse this word? Is it because my cohort bridged the actual-virtual divide? Or because we were reared on sarcasm and irony?
“Escoose me” and other attempts at nice
Oh the words are (almost) right, but the tone… These days excuse me is his conversation starter, even when he is not eagerly interrupting me. It is pronounced escoose me, or escoooooose me when he urgently needs my attention, or EH-SCOOSE-ME (!) when he is flat out exasperated. Similarly, sorry is sometimes barked and please is sneered menacingly. We’re working on it.
Proper word order really is arbitrary, if you think about it. A few of my favorites:
Here comes me!
What letter starts with ball?
Give me some couple of those, please.
I love you how much a diplodocus weighs.
The failure of Awesome
“Um, honey, our kid just said awesome.” Nooooooo! It happened way before The Lego Movie, so it must be our fault. As much as I’d like to blame those kids at school, I have to look in the mirror, or at least glare accusingly at my husband.
By teaching him awesome, we’ve contributed to Awesome Inflation. A 4 year old is even less capable of using it properly. The Everything is Awesome song only fuels it. He’s too young and literal to get the joke: “Rocks, clocks and socks! They’re awesome!”
R: The Final Frontier
The day Robin got the L sound he stretched it out in a llluscious, exotic way, like a flirtatious Frenchman. I could tell he enjoyed the feel and sound of the letter. All of his words have come into focus, but still the R sound eludes him. We started calling him Boston when he entreated us to “tickle my ahmpit!”
I’ll miss this last vestige of toddlerhood when it leaves us. For now, I enjoy these gems:
Gwehwel (gwehwel; kinda rhymes with squirrel) – girl
Caw (cahw) – car, not to be mistaken for cow (Context! Use context!)
E-wings (EEE-wings) – earrings; “Dogs don’t wea(r) e-wings.”
Gwanilla bow – granola bar
Pawty (PAHW-ty, NOT potty; please don’t mistake it for potty; I mean for chrissake, why would he want to have his friends over to eat cake in the potty?)