Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What's your name, man?

Alexander can say a lot of complicated things:

  • Happy birthday
  • Screwdriver
  • Spiderman
  • Where are you?
He actually can say pretty much anything and says things with surprising grammatical acuity. His pronunciation, however, is hilariously lacking, and his voice is so tiny-sounding that it makes everything sound cute, even if it's not cute when it's written down because, well, it sounds like perfectly normal English. 
This morning, for example, Alexander came to find me and said, "Hi, Mom! Are you making dinner?"

"Ummmm...nope," I answered. Since it was 10:00 in the morning and I was sitting at my computer, this answer felt like the obvious answer to me, but apparently it didn't seem so obvious to him because he asked me again just to make sure.

"Oh. Are you making dinner?"

"Still no."

"Happy birthday. I'm Spiderman!" Alexander told me (and I should probably note that we went through the bin of 2T clothes yesterday (finally) and found a pair of Spiderman pyjamas, which he was super happy about and which he was still wearing this morning at 10:00).

"Are you just going around saying all your tricky things?" I asked (because sometimes he does that). 

"Yup," he said. But really he said "bahm" because that is how he says yes/yup (more on that in a minute). Then he said, "Can you carry me? Happy birthday. Happy birthday. Happy birthday! Is Daddy here, Mommy?"

"No. Daddy is not here."

"Oh. Where did Daddy go?"

"Daddy is at work today."

"Oh. Okay. Doo-doo-doo. Baby shark. Doo-doo-doo. Run away!"

And with that he ran away. So you see he's really quite a good talker. 

The "bahm" thing took us a long time to figure out, but for whatever reason "bahm" is the opposite of "no." He tends to turn /z/ and /s/ into /b/, so I think what's happening is that he's metathesizing "yes" to "sey" but then he can't say the /s/ so that turns to /b/ and then he can't say a hard /y/ sound so it comes out as an /m/. Bahm. Sure. 

I mean, I'm not sure we've ever even gotten him to nod his head yes. 

He's been an enthusiastic nay-sayer his entire life—shaking his head no and liberally using the word in his day-to-day life. But he had never once told us yes to anything. We started taking silence as consent because otherwise we wouldn't ever have permission to do anything to him.

"Do you want an apple?" I might ask him, for example. 


"Do you want a banana?"


"Do you want a pear?"


"So, a pear, then?"


"Okay, let's get a pear for you."

It has not been the most effective method of communication (especially since he'd never nod his head for yes, either; he was NO! NO! NO! or 100% no response). But now we have "bahm."

"What shall we do this afternoon? Should we read some stories?"


"Should we go for a walk?"


"Should we go to the park?"


That's a yes (er, "bahm") for the park! Houston, we have communication! It's somewhat a hilarious interpretation of the word—made more hilarious by the fact that since he's started saying it all the kids have started saying it—but we'll take it.

I wish that I could record every minute of my kids when they're sweet and young (they're sweet when they're older as well, but ultimately less entertaining (sorry, older kids—if it's any consolation you're more fun to play games and go on outings with)). Here's a video I took this afternoon of Alexander saying his name for one of the very first times:

In case you need a transcription:

Me: Okay, come on Bo-Bo.
Alexander: I'm not Bo-Bo!
Me: You're not Bo-Bo?! Who are you?
Alexander (pointing to Zoë): Bwe Bo-Bo!
Me: She's Bo-Bo. Who are you?
Alexander: I Ah-nuk-nander!
Me: You're Alexander!

He's taken a long time to say "yes" and he's taken a long time to say his name, but finally he can do both!