Saturday, October 17, 2009

In context

Remember punctuation lessons? The words' meanings are interpreted differently according to their interspersed punctuation.

A woman without her man is nothing.
vs.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Opposing extremist narrow-minded viewpoints aside, I always think of this example as I listen to L's developing speech. We understand most of what she says. We have the advantage of the contextual knowledge of which consonants she mispronounces and how, which word parts she tends to drop, what intrigues her and what doesn't. To the outsider? Her meanings are probably often misinterpreted. Here's one of her favorite phrases:

Gook! More suction!!

She says Gook!! a gazbillion times a day. By itself, I think it sounds unfortunately racist, especially as it's frequently accompanied by a pointing finger. And then the racism feels weirdly anachronistic coming out of her young voice, like an older relative who still uses words like "colored" or "Oriental" and isn't referring to area rugs. You shake your head, remember it's a product of another age, and don't quite bother to chastise the offensiveness because it's so obviously unacceptable, excusing its inappropriateness based on the age of the offender.

In this particular combination, I think she sounds like a sitcom surgeon. 'There's gook! Quick! Nurse! We need more suction!' Maybe she's exploring future career options.

No, what the child is really saying is this:

It is uttered every time we see orange fencing or bulldozers or traffic cones. Every time we see mounds of dirt or detour signs or yellow-blinking vehicles. Every time we get in the car, essentially.

Gook! More suction!! = Look! More construction!

We understand her, but it sounds funny/bad. We had a lot of trouble with this with E, too, so I have to remember that we have to provide explanations until L grows into her enunciating skills. And even we don't always understand, just as we didn't with her big sister. For example: when E kept repeating she was taking pictures of her crotch. She wasn't, though (thank goodness); she was just taking pictures of her Crocs. This too shall pass. Pin It

1 comment:

JAS said...

Reminds me of the way at least one or the other of my kids used to pronounce the words "ship" and "truck."