Experts will say that the most important thing separating man from animal is language to which I say 1) Would you ask an ex-girlfriend for sex (I mean besides during a 3 a.m. drunk dial while walking home from the bar) or an ex-smoker for a cigarette (I mean besides at 3 a.m. while you’re drunk dialing your ex-girlfriend)? You wouldn’t. So why then should I believe anything that comes from these so-called “ex-perts”? I say if you’re no longer Pert then keep your opinions to yourself. 2) I contend that the most important thing separating man from animal is either thick glass or a tall fence. (I’m looking at you Mrs. Esposito. Lock your backyard gate or I’m going to Bob Barker your dog Bandit with my size 12)
If you’re like me (and if you are I’m sorry to say there is no known cure) you have had, currently have or will have a toddler who will go through the language development stage during which your child will sound like he or she is taking a night course in the genealogy of Polish surnames. Rambling garbled strings of consonants and vowels that create a dialect of mispronounced letter combinations, sound and noise that bear no resemblance to actual words. (Duke Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski – pronounced Sha-shef-ski – might take offense to this comparison but Coach K can just Krzyut Up as far as I’m concerned)
My son Adam just turned 15 months old for instance and to me it sounds like he’s rehearsing lines to audition for a stage production of the Jodie Foster movie “Nell”.
“Taye n na winn.”
I don’t understand Adam? What do you want?
“Bu Jaye n na Gra ba lae ba la ba.”
You want me to read the Liam Neeson part? What?
(Runs into the kitchen waving his arms above his head) “Ma ba fa fa whoa whoa whoa”
We don’t have any Chianti or Fava Beans if that’s what you’re looking for.
“Nein nein nein!”
Oh come on, that just sounds German.
(Grabs my hand, makes propeller sound with is lips and leads me to refrigerator) “Da da. Ba ba”
“I agree. Flightplan did feel contrived in parts.”
Certain “Ex-perts” will tell you that Love is the universal language and whereas I love my son more than anything I contend that English and not love is the universal language and the sooner Adam and everyone else gets in line with that agenda the sooner I can stop 1) pointing at things on the counter and saying to Adam “This? This? This? This? 2) Slipping on wet floors. (How was I supposed to know it had just been mopped? I thought those were Janice Joplin Lyrics on the sign. “Cuidado! Take another little piso mojado, baby.”)
Now I can already hear the language liberals saying, “That xenophobic attitude is what’s wrong with this country. America’s a melting pot of culture and language. In fact, all our children should at least be bi-lingual if they want to succeed in the 21st Century.” First, I don’t see how my attitude could have anything to do with Lucy Lawless. Second, I like one type of cheese in my bubbling patriotic fondue of society and that’s American (and sometimes a nice Swiss Gruyère which I’ll tolerate since the Swiss are neutral) Third, if you encourage your children to be bi-lingual that’s your business. I have a strict “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to what tongues are used in the privacy of other people’s homes, but I like my “linguals” the way I like the magic horns on the heads of mythical equine creatures, my lateral decisions and the sexual designation of public restrooms: Uni. (Did you know in Native American culture a Unicorn is called a Unimaize?)
So until Adam decides to start speaking in a language I can understand and stop speaking like he’s eaten a game of Scrabble (Adam said his first triple word score the other day! I’m so proud) I’ve developed three failsafe methods that when applied directly to forehead, applied directly to forehead, applied directly to forehead, the infected area and to his babbling gibberish have proven invaluable in helping us decipher and understand the words that are coming out of his mouth.
The Paul is Dead Method
Very much the same way The Beatles divulged the death of Paul McCartney by backmasking it in clues that could be heard by playing their White Album backwards, a toddler will sometimes say something that sounds nonsensical but when listened to in reverse will make known some revealing truth. For example, your husband takes your 18-month old son out to the park for a few hours and when they return home you say to your toddler, “Did you and your Daddy have fun at the park?” Your child garbles a response that sounds like the dwarf from Twin Peaks, “kcart esroh eht ot em koot yddad”. You smile and kiss hubby on the cheek, but if you’d used the Paul is Dead method you’d realize your son just said, “Daddy took me to the Horse Track.” (This is not to be confused with my far less effective Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Method)
The Word Jumble Method
You’ve seen it on the comic page of the newspaper wedged between The Family Circus and the Bridge column and now it’s time you used it to understand your child. The idea behind the Word Jumble is that you unscramble letters to make words. Some of the letters in the unscrambled words are then used to form the answer of the Jumble’s overall riddle. Unnecessary and convoluted I agree, but when applied to your child’s nattering it becomes an invaluable method of decryption. For example you playfully say to your toddler, “Did someone make a poopy in their diaper?” to which your child replies, “oangkora igzzga ouhty upypp” Gobbledygook? Not after the words are decoded and certain letters emphasized “Kangaroo Zigzag Youth Puppy” That’s right, your kid just told you to Krzyut Up. (Kangaroo Zigzag Youth Puppy is playing the T. F. Much Ballroom in Melbourne this Saturday: Tickets are $15 in advance $20 at the door)
The Word Search Method
Much like the puzzle wherein words are hidden horizontally, vertically, diagonally, backwards and forwards within a rectangular box of seemingly random letters, imagine that within the constant stream of seemingly random vowels and consonants pouring from your child there are actual words hidden. The key is to determine which letters form words and which letters are just filling up the box. As this is the most difficult of the three proposed methods and frustrations and tempers have been known to run high when using it, it’s recommended that you do not resort to filling up a box with your child to alleviate some of the stress. (Children must always be sent overnight mail and be labeled with a sticker that reads, “May contain fruit”)
As your child goes through the language development stage I recommend using one or all of these methods as a way to better understand him or her. You may think I’m bullkrzyitting you, but we use them with Adam and they’ve not only helped us make sense of what we thought was pure drivel, but Adam can also apply the credit hours from his genealogy course towards his undergraduate degree.