Language Matters

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Language Matters
Kids say the funniest things! They also say the meanest things, the most ridiculous things and things that largely make no sense whatsoever.

I’m personally a great fan of the latter unless I get into a conversation with Harry on the minutiae of Star Wars as these often degenerate into testy affairs with me gritting my teeth so that I don’t have to shout.

‘No,’ I’ll grit, ‘but Count Dooku isn’t really a Jedi anymore, even though he did train under Master Yoda.’ (Harry always insists on giving the Star Wars characters their full title, out of respect presumably).
‘But if Count Dooku isn’t a Jedi then he won’t be able use the force because then he’s a Sith like Anakin who can use the Force because he was a Jedi before he turned to the Dark Side, but Count Dooku isn’t Darth Vader and so he uses electricity, but Master Yoda can stop him,’ Harry will triumphantly nod, unaware that he’s spouting rubbish.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a dad though it’s that you can’t really say, ‘You’re talking rubbish and it seems to me that you’re blurring the distinctive line between Jedi and Sith powers, occasionally throwing in other characters from the Star Wars Universe thus muddying the waters further .’ Well, I never have said that anyway.
‘Yes, but I think what you’re trying to say is that Yoda…’
‘Master Yoda.’
‘Quite. Master Yoda did train Dooku…’
children playing

‘Count Dooku.’
At which point I feel like shouting and generally clear the dinner plates away.

Caitlin, at 4, isn’t quite as opinionated and she’s just finding her feet in terms of linguistic manglings. Mostly this means that she entertains us with a variety of mispronunciations, our current favourite being ‘flumbs’. She’s a bright girl and in recently starting primary school has officially become ‘too big for her boots’. The idiom is an odd one but what it means in real terms is that her successful integration into Mrs. Lean’s Reception class has immediately made 63.4% of everything her mum or I say worthy of a little sigh and an exaggerated roll of the eyes.

So that’s why we get our own back. When she’s being particularly irritating we’ll just stop her in her tracks and say, apropos nothing:
‘Hey, Caitlin, what are those on your hands?’
‘What, these?’ she’ll ask, genuinely appearing to forget that we’ve done this hundreds of times before.
‘Yes, next to your fingers.’
‘They’re my flumbs.’
‘And how many do you have?’
‘Two. Two flumbs.’
That shows her!

Caitlin age 4
Mostly though she likes to repeat phrases that she has picked up. These are usually delivered with an air of portent like some Brighton-accented, doll-obsessed, pint-sized Sibyl. I’ve lost track of the number of times she’s woken me up with, ‘Daddy, there’s good news and there’s bad news.’ The first few times I leapt out of bed, listening hard to the incoming disaster, frantically trying to pick up signs of life in the other rooms.
‘What? What is it?’
‘Well, I wanted to take my babies downstairs and I couldn’t find Ariel’s comb.’
Then she’ll raise her eyes and pout as though we were all nearing the end of the world, but she was coping well. In truth sometimes the answer wasn’t even this clear-cut.

‘Well,’ (she does like a sentence starting with ‘well’) ‘It’s a nice day so we could go to the park.’
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a dad though it’s that you can’t shout ‘But that doesn’t make any sense at all! That’s a simple statement of fact, not a finely-balanced two-pronged message that tries to offset disappointment with the lure of pleasantry’ at the child who has just woken you up by poking you in the eye.

Caitlin playing with bubbles
Her other current favourite is ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this!’ which we think came from one or other of the Star Wars films, possibly Episode II. She usually gets this wrong too, although she has shown an adeptness at comic timing on occasion by walking into the kitchen, catching sight of the salad and then muttering it. Perhaps I find it amusing because I generally feel the same way about salad!

However, my favourite phrase of hers was an original, came only last week and was similarly food-orientated. Afterwards I pointed out to Sarah that if nothing else it was actually the first unique simile that Caitlin had ever thought of herself. If Sarah didn’t relish this pivotal parental moment as much as she might have then it could have been because it came slightly at her expense.

‘Eat your dinner,’ we’d just instructed Caitlin, as she prodded and pushed around her aubergine pasta. Now I’ve never been particularly partial to aubergine but the well-worn equation Time(-Tidying)+Leftover Aubergine=Aubergine Pasta for Tea applies here. I’d eaten mine, Sarah had eaten hers, Harry (bless him) had eaten his in between mouthfuls of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ this, ‘Emperor Palpatine’ that and ‘General Grevious’ the other. Caitlin, however, was not so easily distracted.

‘C’mon Caitlin, let’s eat up as quickly as we can,’ we tried again.
She sighed, rolled her eyes and omitted ‘Well’ so that she knew her statement would go straight to the mark.
I don’t like it. It’s as filthy as a badger,’ she said, quite simply.
Say what you like about her occasional mis-steps in language, but when it comes to aubergine she does have a point!

By Dave Fouracre aka Dave the Dad, Dad to Tom 9, Harry 6 and Caitlin 4

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