Friday, July 13, 2012

Sunclouds and Handcakes

Wasn’t the world a much nicer place when you were little? There were no taxes to pay, no deadlines, no backaches. Instead there were kittens, lollipops, fireflies and shells on the beach. And then there were the long naps, the hours and hours of free time. I certainly hope that’s what life feels like for my three-year-old.

I remember reading that somewhere in the world, when a child turns three, the family asks the gods to bestow on him or her the gift of eloquence. Because that’s the age when those linguistic pieces start to really come together. Watching our three-year-old begin to wrestle and have fun with his bilingualism (Italian and English) has been particularly fascinating. It very well may be that it’s his handle on two languages that allows him to be so linguistically experimental and whimsical, or it may be that all three-year-olds are programmed to think and talk like he does. I don’t know.

In any case, I’d like to share with you some of my son’s invented English terms, which he regularly uses and which capture his (innocent) reality far better than the ‘actual’ words.

Tattoons – those non-permanent tattoos with all sorts of cool designs that often look cartoonish, the kind that may prevent your child from bathing for several days in a row

Handcakes – these sound like a lot more fun to wear than handcuffs, don’t you think?

Cactopus – a kind of cactus with arms that reach out to grab you

Sun clouds – the opposite of storm clouds; the kind of white glary clouds that seem to bounce sunlight back down to Earth…at least they’re like that here in New Zealand!

In a few weeks, our little linguist will turn four. I’m hoping his fourth year will bring many more – and not fewer – of such words, some of which I’ve started to use myself. Long may the innocence last.

And what are some of your little ones’ made-up words?