Posts Tagged ‘Colony Club’

Micro-dialects: The Family Lexicon

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Starting a New Year, and reflecting back over some of the joys of years past, when the children were small…

I think every family with children develops their own special vocabulary. These are the words your children invent that you simply cannot let go.

My first and very favorite wasn’t really a word; it was a sound that encompassed entire sentences. It was the sound my toddling first born made when he offered up a treasure, when he held out his pudgy little hand to share a discovery. Later, when he had more words, The Eldest would call these mysterious treasures that he felt compelled to share his ‘clues’. But at the beginning, there was just the sound…

As a new toddler (and he took his first steps a week before he turned nine months old, god help me), The Eldest developed a very special rumbling sort of purr. It was a sound that came from deep in his throat, like a precursor of Romance language, a rising ‘Bbrrrrt?’ of a noise, that seemed to end in a question mark. It was almost always accompanied by his upraised and outstretched hand, offering to share his prize with you.

As a first time parent, I didn’t really realize that these wondrous and unique vocalizations, like so many other young childhood behaviors, would miraculously appear, and then almost as quickly disappear, as new developmental delights crossed our horizons. The thing about stages and phases is that they give way to the next thing. Fantastic progress is made. But much is lost along the way. I suspect we all resisted some of these changes… I know I was slow to relinquish my babies’ age in days. Then slow to give up their weeks for months. 11 days sounds so much more tiny, doesn’t it? 11 days. 11 weeks. 11 months. You get my point.

Somewhere on an aging micro cassette (a Sony technology that was also supplanted by a later development) is a recording of The Eldest’s gift-giving purr. I have to find that cassette, and get that recording burned onto a CD, pronto…

There were other wonderful words gifted to us by our three children, and by our nieces and nephews. I treasure them still, though they have for the most part fallen out of regular usage.

The first born grandchild in our combined families arrived  two years before our own son. Matthew was obsessed with fire engines. Matthew called then “Fungines”. So did we all, willingly.

Matthew was a very well mannered and well-taught toddler. He would walk around his Grandparents’ living room with his hand outstretched, self-correcting. As he passed the breakables on their un-childproofed table tops, he would repeat, ‘Matew, No. No, Matew’. And he would not touch them! Perhaps not surprisingly, he is now in law school.

Matthew was also very impressed with his Grandfather’s clocks, which were carefully wound every week. The carriage clock in the living room chimed on the quarter hour, with a different musical sound to mark each quadrant. The tall case grandfather clock in the front hall had an impressive, sonorous tone when it struck the hour. Matthew christened the grandfather clock the “Bing-Bong.” Truly said.

In our own family, my three children all developed an early word for their favorite baked good.

For The Eldest, it was a cookie, which he called a “tootie”. One day I went to lunch with my Great Aunt Suzanne, at the Colony Club in New York. I don’t know what it is about these fabled women’s clubs, but they all seem to have secret recipes for outstanding macaroons. Aunt Suzanne allowed me to take a couple of these almond macaroons home for The Eldest, wrapped up in a paper napkin. When I arrived home, The Eldest was not convinced about my offer of a macaroon. This cookie didn’t look familiar to him and was apparently not convincingly appetizing either. He cautiously accepted one of  the macaroons, and toddled around the corner of our galley kitchen into the living room. He seemed to feel the need to test this weird new cookie out in private. All was quiet for a few moments. Then a little head appeared around the corner of the kitchen doorway. The Eldest said:

“Anummer one, waccawoon tootie?”

I still love that sentence.

The Girl preferred donuts, in particular, donut holes. She called them “Di-das”.

The Boy liked cookies too, but he christened them “Ga-gas”.

Go figure. Somehow we always knew what they wanted.

I miss their early names for each other as well: Don, Tarn and Ax. Can you guess?

When our children were small, we often left New York City on the weekends to visit Grandmommy’s house. Grandmommy and GrandDaddy had a swimming pool. Of course, the wonder of a pool required much teaching and constant safety supervision. The Eldest learned early on that his parents were not fooling around when they cautioned about unaccompanied  access to the swimming pool.

He announced that he would wear a “Life-PreSaver”. Sounds much safer to me.

The Eldest learned to swim quite capably early on, and charmed his Uncle Bob by announcing that he would swim across the pool on the “diangular”. Notice that this dimension sounds longer than either the width or the length. Why isn’t that a real word in regular usage? You understood it right away, didn’t you?

My youngest niece has grown up surrounded by adults, by older cousins, and their social customs. As a pre-schooler, she was particularly taken with the ritual of toasting, when every family member would stretch their arms out across the table in order to touch each other’s glasses. The word she invented for this clinking of glasses was “Tink-tink”. I still use it!

My Mother even got into the act recently. She talks about surveying what’s on offer, in a shop, at the grocery store, or even when having a look-see about her garden. She says she is going to “Schoof” the garden… “Just a quick schoof.”

My grown kids have come up with a new term to describe The Dog’s preferred approach to walking about the neighborhood. They say The Dog likes to “Snoofle”. They are right. He does.

What words have you invented, in your family?

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