Language Lesson

This is probably true of most kids Harper’s age, but she is very interested in words. In addition to having made up her own foreign language, which she speaks with some regularity lately, she latches on to new words she comes across, wants to know what they mean, and isn’t afraid to try them out. Kind of like this, at dinner tonight:

“Mom, what does fowl mean?”


She has stuffed a chunk of bread into her mouth, but tries to answer anyway. “Wait ’til you finish chewing,” I say.

When she finally swallows, she says, again, “Fowl.”

I can’t imagine that she’s talking about turkeys or chickens, so I say, “Can you tell me where you heard it?” But then I have to wait for her to chew again before she can answer. While I’m waiting, I realize that what I really want is for her to use it in a sentence, but then I’d have to explain what a sentence is.

Finally, she says, “From the months.”

“The months?”

“Yeah. ‘The ear two thous and eleven.'” We realize at the same moment that she doesn’t mean fowl at all. “Thous – what’s thous?”

“Ah. Good question. You know all the months? All of those together make up a year, and the years all have numbers, and this year is two thousand eleven.”

“The ear two thousand eleven,” she repeats.

“Is it ear, or year?” Rob asks her.

She grins, getting the joke, “Year! But what’s thousand?

“A really big number.”

She holds her arms out as far as they will go. “This big?”

“That’s about right.”

“What’s fifteen?” She holds her hands about a foot apart. “This much?”

“Something like that.”

She is satisfied, for the moment, and we go back to our dinner.

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