Anyone who listened in to my conversations at home could be forgiven for thinking I was speaking a wierd dialect, rather than English, to my children. Our daily speech is so corrupted by our silly words that I often forget that our family vocabulary isn’t universal.
The children all have several nicknames: some I’m allowed to use in public, some can only be used in front of family and close friends and a third set is solely for home. This can get a little confusing for this bear of very little brain. Which is why I also have one generic nickname that they all answer to, for times when identifying my offspring requires too much mental effort.
Some of our words are from the time when they were babies and were just learning to speak: Fling-go instead of Flamingo; Muck instead of milk; excavator instead of escalator; squiggle instead of squirrel.
Other’s are just entirely bizarre. The story behind Gavin Coleslaw, ‘free Alaning’ and the Ostrich choir are closely guarded family secrets which I will never divulge (unless drunk).
Other’s have been appropriated from children’s books: schooliform and smackerel, are used daily as they perfectly excellent.
It takes a lot of remembering not to use these in general conversation with friends and colleagues. Although discussions about flamingos are sadly rare in the office.
This does make me wonder if perhaps my lackadaisical attitude to parenting and language specifically is detrimental to my children.
So far it seems not to be, although the time when my 13 year old daughter told all her friends what we were doing on an INSECT day and couldn’t understand why they laughed at her, was a particularly low point. Plus the fact I laughed uncontrollably when she told me. Mother of the year? Maybe not.
So does nonsense language impair your child’s grasp of English, or does it have the opposite effect: does playing with language make it more fun and make it another creative tool to be used?
Puns and plays on words are commonplace, and finding the most outlandish word to describe a situation or item is a family pastime on car journeys.
But sometimes, the best thing about nonsense, is that it becomes another way of showing love and kinship. The familiar sayings make for a rich family tapestry and will be remembered whenever those words are heard in the future.
One play on words has been repeated almost every Tuesday afternoon for nearly 6 years now. Starting with my eldest, and now with my youngest, although in a few short months it will be no more.
Because every Tuesday is school swimming lessons, which finish for my youngest child at Easter. Every week I meet my child at the school gates and ask how swimming went, and every week my son says the same thing in reply: