Friday, March 29, 2013

What Happens When Your 'Family Lexicon' Runs Amok

HuffPost contributor Helene Cohen Bludman wrote a column this week about how parents often celebrate the broken English of their offspring, rather than forcing children to speak correctly.

I have to admit, I'm guilty of this myself. We began calling Elliot's blankie a "Yaya" because that's what he called it. He also named his grandparents "Boma and Baba," a far cry from what they actually wanted to be called.

Elliot with his Yaya.

Still, Bludman appears to be taking this to another level:
When my husband mentions an article in a "mazagine," I don't bother correcting him with "magazine." If he asks me if I need anything at "Fee Hee," I may note that we are out of milk so please pick some up when you are at Super Fresh. I suggest we have "hangibers" for dinner, and he takes the hamburger buns out of the freezer. 
These are three words from our family lexicon, invented by our children when they were very young and stumbling through a new world of language acquisition. 
We have let the children go. But not the words they left behind. 
"Lolo" was Cheerios cereal and "Bee Lolo" was Honey Nut Cheerios, coined with great logic by my 1-year-old son. After all, there is a bee on the box. Makes sense, right? 
As an alternative to cereal, there was always an "omelick" for "brefix." 
I remember our son coming home from pre-school one day, crestfallen. "What's wrong?" I asked as I unpacked his book bag. "Wasn't this the day you were having a French breakfast in school?' 
"We did," he mumbled. "But when I said 'Yay, we're having a French brefix', everyone laughed at me." 
I felt a pang of guilt. Was I a bad mother for not having corrected him earlier?
Yeah, maybe. Kinda?

I think it's fine to have your own lingo within the family, so long as your kids realize that they have to speak differently with outsiders.

With Elliot, this recognition seemed to come early. When he was 3, I heard him describe his Baba as his "grandpa" to someone outside the family. I was surprised because I'd never heard him use this word, but he clearly realized that "Baba" was jargon.

If your kids don't make that realization on their own, you probably need to step in.

Elliot's articulation is now much better than it once was, but he still stumbles over a few words.

For instance, he pronounces "before" as "afore."

I was working to correct this, until I did a little research. "Afore" is Middle English for "before." In other words, he's just an old soul.

I guess I can let that one go.