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I made a boat out of Pepperami

Language is a fascinating thing but as a psychologist looking at speech development in children, especially my own, is hugely entertaining and enlightening into the workings of thought and logic. I watch with great anticipation and expectation as I observe my children and their friends talk about everyday life to see what wonderful combinations of phrases and mispronunciations occur, something I often do myself – and not always on purpose. One which made me laugh out loud most recently was when a friend of my middle daughter was trying to explain a school project she had to do, which puzzled us all to begin with…

“I had to make a boat out of Pepperami”

To which she received some curious looks from around the room and having realised the absurdity of what she’d said, she exclaimed…

“No wait, that sounds wrong. Oh yeah, I mean I made it out of origami.”

It’s not always the misuse of common words in place of words which are less familiar that creates confusion and hilarity but seeing my little ones make sense of nonsense words (in their view) and putting them into the right context albeit in a slightly muddled way.

We went to the zoo the other day and saw these funny pink birds called flingbows”

or, in another context:

You know when you went on holiday, did you fly from Gitwack too?”

The challenge for the very young of course is the inability to pronounce certain sounds or words that have a particular arrangement of syllables. At the moment my youngest daughter at the age of 22 months is struggling to say “hot-cross buns” – which is unfortunately coming out as “hot-cross bums” and blueberries have been dubbed “boobies”.

The location of a conversation can often have a bearing on the topic of conversation, of course the school playground is a hive of activity and gossip amongst parents and children alike. Sometimes even the two collide with interesting results. As the first generation of children move up the school their parents converse over the potential of having more children and pregnant mothers waddle through the playground, at which point cue the 6 year olds at the edge of the playground…

What’s a foetus? Isn’t it like poo?”

Seasons change and spring arrives with the prospect of growing pot plants on windowsills and the occasional tomato plant arrives home half dead and the prospect of having your own home grown vegetables and fruit generates excitement, to which my eldest exclaims:

“Can we grow rhubarb and apple crumple next year?”

But little ones grow fast and soon they master complicated words and can even begin to spell better than their parents, learning the art of grammar and punctuation but occasionally they do need a little bit of help and support along the way…

Mummy you know ‘rackets’? “

What do you mean? The things you play tennis with?

No!”

What, you mean when people make lots of noise?

No, the things you put round words.”

Oh! Brackets?

Yeah that’s it!”

It may be that all children go through this hilariously funny journey of discovery with words, absentmindedly creating laughter amongst the grown-ups just within earshot. But of course some of us older folk might be slightly to blame, unknowingly generating these verbal uncertainties in our own dialogue, I myself often say “shall we coss a toin?” And of course, who can forget the scene from the Vicar of Dibley, where I learnt officially that Jesus was in fact born in Dunstable.

I’m sure there are many of you out there with similar examples.

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Filed under: communication, learning theory, learning transfer, relationships
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