Monday, December 12, 2016

That Pesky English Language Strikes Again

I love when kids try out words.

Chloe, lately, is trying to figure out time (not how to tell it, but rather what the different time terms mean). And so she'll randomly throw out things like, "When I was at Grammy's house, five years ago..." which is rather funny, since she's not yet three. Or: "When Anna comes home at 46." Forty-six is definitely her favorite number. And no, it's not because I or her dad are 46 (but that number is starting to look closer and closer).

Ethan tries out words, too, with a few slip-ups along the way. His speech is fantastic. He has come a LONG way from the days when he was delayed at age 2 and 3. His pragmatic language (using speech in the correct context) is really quite good as well, but he has his moments. He tends to use the more formal term for certain things, sometimes. So instead of being hurt, he might say, "I'm injured!" Sometimes I wonder if he gets this from football, They have the injury report, after all, and are always talking about having "an injured player on the field." Thanks to Master Chef he likes to say things like, "Yay, it's time for our entrees!" when we're at a restaurant. These type of things make me smile and Anna cringe. It's so hard to explain to Ethan that the words he's using aren't technically wrong. They're just not typically used -- especially by a nine-year-old.

The other day he asked me what "e.g." meant. He'd seen it in a book. I told him it was like saying, "for example." Honestly, I don't know what e.g. really means. Does it stand for something Latin? Yeah, I was an English major but I don't know.

So the next day in conversation he said something like, "So, if we're going to do something active, e.g., basketball or football..."

"Ethan?" I asked. "Did you just say e.g.?"


"Um." I tried to think of how to phrase this. "I know it means for example, but it's not something people use in conversation. Usually it's just written in books."


"Why?" I repeated. Darned. Stumped again. "I don't know why," I admitted. "It just sounds weird."

"But what about a.k.a.? People say that? And for example? Isn't it all the same thing?"

Acck. The kid is too smart. "Well, yes...." I conceded. Why? I asked inwardly, shaking my fist at the English language. Why is aka alright but eg is not?

"I love e.g. It's my new favorite word," he said happily. Since then he has started using it all of the time. Well, in context. But I swear he's looking for examples of times he can say for example, via e.g.

"Do you say that at school, to other kids?" I asked him, wondering if they would know what he's talking about.

"No," he said, but he wouldn't say why. That made me wonder if maybe he's making a mental note of the "right" way to say things, if there really is such a thing. But he feels comfortable to say them however he pleases at home.

And that's the way it should be. Family, e.g., the place where you can be yourself. And say the words that sound silly. Even if none of us really know why.

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