Monday, 22 February 2016

When kids make up words

I saw a Facebook post today by Smaggle about a small boy who created 'bin-oco-lookers', that reminded me of one of the things my children - as many do - did that has lasted into current time. They both made up words, and the best of them - and sadly, while there were many more, I never wrote them down, so they've been lost - are part of the family vocab to this day.

How to, as parents and the adults mostly around them, conduct ourselves with small children is something that is still debated as far as the baby talk vs no baby talk argument goes. Both the boys were bright and advanced with language, and had impressive vocabularies as small children. As a young man, No.2 was a formidable Scrabble opponent too! They were both read to from the beginning, and I wasn't one for baby talk, so conversations - from birth - were regular ones. No.1 had a tendency to contract words, while No.2 tended more to enlarge them. But it was the variant creations that we loved, and to this day, there are a few gems that we all still use.

Stagon wayshun - station wagon. Pretty self explanatory, really.
Windscreamers - windscreen wipers. A personal favourite.
Ambience - ambulance. He could say it, but liked his version better!
Hoppycopter - helicopter. Particularly brilliant, I think!
Vegables - vegetables.
Fi-shen truck - fire engine.

They both delighted in nonsense poetry like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. No.1, who'd been bilingual as a tiny child (I was learning Italian at the same time he was learning to talk, so the end result was that he switched between languages fairly randomly!) loved mixing up Italian and English words. It was quite deliberate, as he knew the difference...but the confounded expressions on people's faces were clearly irresistible!

We used to play a game with a dictionary - which you can buy now as the board game, Balderdash - taking turns to pick out a word and have everyone else make up definitions for it. It's a game that can be played with a mixed age group, which was useful with two six and a half years apart. 

Now and again, we'd hit some sanctimonious type who couldn't help themselves, and HAD to correct. As I said to both of them - as my mother had said to me - language is a living thing. It changes via usage, and experimenting with it didn't make what they were doing wrong. Obviously, there's a time and a place for mucking around with it, but the joy they had with their invented words and the reactions of family was worth more than treading on them and forcing corrections that weren't really all that important, given the context. 

After all, Dr Zeuss made a career of nonsense words, did he not?!

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