The following is by editor Kara Fleck.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed my toddler for my Rockin’ Granola blog. Lucy has recently had a language explosion and with that has come all of the charming mispronunciations and adorable “toddler speak” that go along with being a bubbly two year old.
The post sparked a few comments from other parents about their children’s mispronunciations as toddlers and how some of those phrases have worked their way into the fabric of the family language.
The more families I talk to, I find that, more often than not, each one has their own set of code words, mispronunciations, and inside jokes that are specific to their family.
It is always interesting to me to find out where these words and phrases come from and how they have evolved within each family.
Mispronunciations: Who is Influencing Whom?
We’re probably all familiar with those baby phrases and cute toddler mispronunciations. It seems that inevitably, a few of those phrases and words stick with a family and we all end up adopting the child’s way of saying certain things – sometimes even long past toddlerhood.
Though of course, I do endeavor to teach my children the proper way to pronounce words, inevitably I will catch myself asking the kids if they want an “abocado” (avocado) or “bumpa chips” (taco chips). Sometimes I wonder who is influencing whom!
Sometimes secret family languages develop for practical reasons. In my family, we practice child-led weaning and my shy toddlers have usually come up with their own secret code word for asking to nurse when we are out in public or have company.
I know another family who has a code word for when someone needs to use the restroom, which is so much nicer than a child blurting out, “I have to pee!”
Having a code word or phrase can take some of the potential embarrassment out of situations for a child and still ensure that needs get met.
Made Up Words, Nicknames, Jokes
A silly word or phrase can become part of a family’s language, too. Once, a few years ago, I was talking and tripped over my words. Jillian, my oldest, was around age four at the time. She heard me and told me I had had a “blah-da-blah-da” meaning that my tongue was tied up. We giggled over that and, to this day, when someone in our family trips over their words, someone else will holler “blah-da-blah-da!”
I have nicknames for my kids and, as they are getting older, they are developing nicknames for each other, too. While a mean nickname will not be tolerated at our house, I like to see the terms of endearment and variations on their proper names that they come up with for each other. Max has called Jillian “Snee” for almost as long as he could talk and they all tease their Daddy and call him “Bear” (as in “snores like a bear.”)
Families can develop inside jokes, too. To this day, if I told them I had a “clam chowder” moment, I can guarantee that my brothers, sister, and my parents would know exactly what I meant (and, no, it doesn’t mean eating soup).
When my kids are having what my swim coach used to call a “bumpy day” they need a reminder that they are still loved no matter what. I have a little song I sing them:
I love you good or bad.
Happy or sad,
I still love you
My nine year old, who sometimes considers herself too big for hugs and singing (but not very often, thankfully) might ask me on those days, “Good or bad, mama?” and I answer her, “happy or sad” and that is enough to convey the message and affirm that she is loved.
I’ve always loved Megan’s family’s concept of an “emergency hug.”
I believe that these code words and unique family languages can be part of what bonds a family. Woven into individual family cultures, these phrases and jokes become threads in the cord that ties us together; another family tradition.
Does your family have its own language? Secret code word or phrase? Inside jokes that you share? What about nicknames?