Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the tag “family”

Ken’s pants

pants

Had to share a fabulous example of twisted kid’s language given to me by my lovely friend Amanda…

Her sister’s family used to holiday down in Cornwall, and the long car journey was punctuated by her niece Molly proclaiming, “We’re going to Ken’s pants! We’re going to Ken’s pants!”

I’m never going to think of Penzance the same way again…

Thanks, Molly.

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out of the mouths of bébés…

anouka cat

“Je vais faire de bruite très calme, car j’aime le bruit très calme1.”  The musings of a French romantic poet? Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier or Alfred de Musset, perhaps? No. The musings of a three-year old.

With her French artist / yoga teacher mother and English sax player father, the odds were high that Noukie (now nine) would be quirky and artistic. But her idiosyncratic, artistic, and at times esoteric take on the world seems more profound than that.

Seeing the dusty body of a pigeon lying in the gutter, its blue-grey feathers ruffling in the wind, she said “il est cassé, le pigeon” (it is broken, the pigeon): as though it were a broken toy she could no longer play with. Then, taking Pascale’s hand, she asked calmly, “Parle me encore de la mort” (speak to me more about death). Read more…

dig a little deeper

61K0InWjL4L._SX385_My nephew Sebastian had a panoply of changed words and meanings:

“Effisgator!” he used to shout as my sister drove down the M4: it took a while to work out that this digger-loving three year old was spotting yellow JCB excavators (this was pre-Bob the Builder so perhaps inspired by Dig Dig Digging?).

“Stacky backy mash boe!” This was Seb’s frustrated two year old’s version of ‘just back off [or similar four letter words ending in **ck] and leave me alone’. (I might adopt that one myself: it would certainly save on the swear box donations.)

“Hinxie needs some milk”. This was Seb (aged 2 1/2) trying to say ‘Think he needs some milk’, when he was worried that his crying baby brother Alex might need breastfeeding. From then on, Alex was known as ‘Hinxy’, later ‘Hinx’.

Be good to hear your own versions of baby-talk, family expressions and phrases and names that just don’t feel right if you change the order around…

mondegreen

Sometimes children’s mixed up words are the result of their not being able to get their mouths around a difficult word or phrase – my nephew Seb saying ‘Effisgator!‘ for ‘excavator’, for instance.

At other times, as when Molly said ‘Ken’s Pants‘ for ‘Penzance’, they’re the result of kids making their own story out to make sense of something they couldn’t understand, or that they’ve misheard.

photoMolly’s phrase is an example of mondegreen. And if you’ve never heard the phrase (I hadn’t, until a Wiki search earlier today), and you’re wondering what on earth I’m on about, mondegreen is the mishearing of a phrase because of a near-homophony. In other words, something sounds like something else, so you mis-say it.

A classic example of this is the transformation of ‘Gladly my cross I’d bear’, from the eponymous hymn, to ‘Gladly, my cross-eyed bear’: even if this is, as rumoured, an urban myth, it still makes me go ‘Ah’.

The etymology of Mondegreen can be followed here, on Wikipedia. Briefly, an American writer named Sylvia Wright coined the term for an essay she wrote for Harper’s Magazine in 1954.

Her mother had read aloud to her from Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,

And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line was ‘And laid him on the green’…

orderly conduct

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Have you ever noticed how, when you talk about couples you know, you say their names in a particular order? In our family, for instance, we always say Jilly and Colin, never Colin and Jilly, and Sue and Donald, not Donald and Sue… Somehow it would feel wrong if you changed the names around. Why is that? The lyrical quality of the word order, perhaps? Your subconscious mind taking over and letting you know who matters most? Read more…

striking the wrong chord

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“Me myself personally, I do prefer the funky stuff…”

Jimmy G was the son of a local haulier, drawn to our house by the presence of four nubile teenage girls, but spotted by my dad and made to listen to his piano-playing. Once my dad started playing, it was always hard to stop him, but this time he made the mistake of asking Jimmy mid-piece what he thought of the music he was playing. When he heard Jimmy’s ripe and rustic response, “Me myself personally, I do prefer the funky stuff”, his hands briefly trembled in mid-air and then fell to the keyboard with a cacophonous clang. Read more…

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