Saturday, 18 April 2009

Definitely Intelligent

I was at my mum's over the Easter break. On Jesus day itself we celebrated with the usual pagan egg rituals and my cousin came over with her husband and kids. I like kids. I like babies and teenagers, toddlers and tweens. I like teaching kids new things and I like it when a kid can outwit me. However. I really appreciate downtime from the little darlings. I like to be able to walk away from work or from a mummified (no... wait. I don't mean that...) friend's house in the knowledge that I can go home and be irresponsible. And honestly, I don't know how my cousin does it. She is an incredibly devoted mother and her older child, her daughter, is WAY too smart. Having a clever toddler is a minefield. All the white lies and sweeping statements you can get away with for other kids, like "Father Christmas doesn't bring toys to naughty children", "If you have a late night your hair will fall out" or even a simple "It's dinner time." are painstakingly dissected and debunked by a fresh-from-the-box genius who can run rings around you.
The reason I wanted to talk about my cousin's kid, though is this. If one word fits her, it's 'definitely'. When offered lasagne at lunch, she responded Charlie and Lola style: 'I def'nitely, def'nitely don't like that AT ALL' But definitions are something she is obsessed with. Amina hates linguistic ambiguity. It makes her really cross. If you refer to what she's wearing on her feet as 'shoes' when sandals, boots or even Crocs would be a better description, you're in the doghouse. Words that are normally and comfortably accepted as having multiple meanings are avoided and, and this is the part I love, replaced with her own coinages. 'Baby' is unnacceptable as a description of her little brother, as it is an adult term of endearment used in pop songs. So he's a zing. Or in extreme cases, Mr Zing. 'Go' is used only to refer to the action of going. As an imperitive in a game, as in "Ready Steady Go!" The words 'ah bwah pwigh' are substituted. The list goes on.
Anybody else got words they made up as a kid? do you still use them? I love this kid for talking control of an illogical language and, aged 4, whipping it into shape. And she's so strong willed, I suspect we'll all be using them before she gives them up...


  1. I was probably a teeny bit like this little one. I was running rings around grown-ups, using words I'd read in the dictionary at 5. My own, personal "word a day" calendar, always trying to used a word like "phenomenal" in a sentence as often as possible during its day.

    For my one-upping the adults in my house, I earned a nickname that I won't repeat here but that stuck. Something about being an intelligent donkey...

  2. I didn't make up words, but my parents tell me that I started talking before I learned the English language...which probably doesn't surprise you ;)

  3. My son, when he was young, used the term "gugguh" for water. The family, siblings included, figured it out early, and just accepted the made up word for a good long while. He used the word long after he should have grown out of it, and only stopped after his sister tricked him.

    Sister: He says "gugguh" because he can't say "water."
    Son: I can too say "water!"

  4. I made up all sorts of words and still do. One reason for this is that I'm just crap with the language, and really don't know what I'm talking about. (My wife knows, like, TWICE the number of words I do. Being Canadian, I just use 'eh' and 'fuck'. A lot.) The other reason I make up words is that I have a PhD and so can do whatever the hell I like. That, really, was the main motivation for the PhD in the first place. (And I'm not kidding...)

    If my son Will had A word, it would be 'apparently'. He uses it all the time right now. Like if you ask him 'Are you going to school?' he looks at you, rolls his eyes and says 'Apparently.'

    Stick that in your Freudian loose-leaf.

  5. After reading that, I am scared!
    Admittedly, given her father, I did half expect my own small person to emerge with a full conversational repertoire and a line in bad puns, but so far we've been treated only to babblings in Russian, Swahili and occasionally High Demonic.

    But she already has some very definite ideas. All things quadrupedal, furry and with tails are "Teh". If it is missing one of these features it is (largely) ignored.

    I have a feeling that 2 parents who delight in playing with words + an absurdly rational daughter is going to lead to some fun times ahead!