International translations

I field questions all day, correct diction, repeat back the preferred form and generally exhaust everyone with my efforts. During a brief lull my youngest pipes up, “lookie, lookie, lookie!”
We look, all of us, out of the window and follow the pointy finger.
“What are we looking at dear?”
“Er…..dat car’s butt is dirty,” he chortles, with quite the filthiest undertone of a brothel creeper.
“Ah…..someone’s written in the muck……anyway….it’s a car boot.”
“Yes, car boot, not car butt.”
“Yes, boot as in shoe.”
“Actually” she adds with a hint of smarm, “it’s car trunk mom, trunk as in back.”
“Er…” percolates the little one, “trunk……. as in elephant,” shortly before he dissolves into cackle on the floor.

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Padlock or face the consequences


In the wee small hours I turn off the telly to stagger up to bed.

At least I now have a few ideas about what to cook for supper.

A few wee small hours later, I find a small boy in a pool of light from the television. I return him, reluctantly, to his bed. Failure to lock up the telly cupboard.

The following day, or rather, later in the same day, we break with tradition to have an alternative breakfast. The croissants are warm and inviting. I pop them in the basket wrapped in the checkered cloth, a delightful gift from yesteryear. I am familiar with all the objections in advance, or so I thought.

“Dey have dah smoke!” he squalks in an adenoidal tone as his fingers pinch his nostrils shut.
“It's just steam, because they're warm dear.”
“I am not eating dah hot. Dah hot is bad!”
“You don't have to eat one lovey, but they have to stay on the table, you know that rule.”

It's all part of the exposure to new foods campaign. We maintain calm resilience, as I know that they're all hungry first thing in the day.

“They're called croissants. They're French.” The other two tuck in with gusto, and offer words of encouragement.
“They're a bit like bread,….or rather like cake, you might like em if you give em a try!”
“Dey are sweet like ………er cake…….but dey are salty too! You like dah salt!”
“I do not like dah crudite!” We are all too well aware, that vegetables are not included in his diet of 17 foods.
“I do not like the Croissants dear,” I rephrase for him.
“I do not like dah crescents.”
“Ooo yes, they are shaped like that, but they're called croissants dear.”
“Dey are dah 'w'?”
“Um sort of, that's how French people pronounce it. It's your favourite 'qu' sound again.”
“How you are spell?”
I oblige.
“Where it is?”
“Where is what dear?”
“Dah 'w'?”
“Ah. Well the 'w' is silent, just like the 'g' in 'gnat,'” I pander.
“I do not like dah croustini!”
“Croissants dear.”
“Croustini is dah 'w'?”
“Um, no I don't think so.”

If he could touch, smell or look at any one of these items, I think I would die of heart failure.

“He is dah croque monsieur?”
I pause, mid munch to look at my speech delayed six and a half year old; dumbstuck, me, not him. I begin to feel distinctly unhinged, more so than usual. Is this a reference to our recent sandwich making exercise with his brother, a school project? Are we entering a second language phase when we have yet to master the first? Is this just an off shoot of his current craze for all words that have a 'qu' or 'cr' sound?


This is direct result of watching the food channel unsupervised in the middle of the night. I decide that this 'self exposure' to new foods, is a step in the right direction.

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My mother said….

“What it is?”
“What is what dear?” Are we still on this spot? I've given up trying to turn it the other way around, from 'what it is' to 'what is it,' but I still inwardly groan at the questions that emerge from nowhere, without clues. Questions out of the blue with no referencing? Why can't he add the bit that he wants to know about? Why does he leave that bit, the essential bit, out? I purse my lips and remind myself of the joy of having a far less speech delayed child than I once had.
“Dah 'disobey'?”
“Disobey? Well that's when you're asked to do something and then you don't do it.” I don't add 'just like you,' but I think it. [translation = if you think an evil thought, it's just as much of a sin as if you had done the deed]
“He is disobey.”
“Who is?” Reference back please, fill in the blanks. Why do I have to extract these from you?
“What did he do?” Come on now, you can do it!
“Oh you are dah stoopid!” he chortles agreeably.
“No more stupids.”
“Ah.” He pauses to collect his thoughts. [translation = regroup and find his place again, since I interrupted his train of thought with an unwelcome reminder.] His speech has improved beyond measure but I still keep hampering the poor child's progress with irrelevancies.
“I say……he is disobey……..dat is he DIDN't do what I said.”
“What did you ask him to do?” One complete sentence at the beginning could have eliminated all of this.
“I say he must OBEY my rules and HE disobey! Dat is dah opposite.” Spouse appears at the tale end of the conversation. [translation = and it is one, a conversation that is to say, where he offered information for mere social purposes] Spouse joins the conversation with his own contribution: “what?”
“He was just telling me that you disobeyed him, didn't obey his rules.”
“Yes, just like the ditty, 'my mother said, I never should, play with the…er……um people, in the wood. If I did, she would say, naughty girl to disobey.'”
“I've heard that before somewhere, but it was different somehow. Why is it different?”

I try to cut him off, to stop him thinking what the missing word is, the “politically incorrect” word that we don't use any more. If my son hears that word, he will want to know what it means. Once he has heard that word, he will repeat it. [translation = often] I know that it is a word that he will adore. He will adore the word because it has two 'y's in it.
“Er, now what was it? Say it again and it might jog my memory.” [translation = word retrieval]
“What it is?” splutters junior.
“What is what dear?”
“Dah word dat he forgotted?”
“He forgot it.”
“No I haven't, it's on the tip of my tongue………umm….”
“He is dah stoopid too?”
“We don't say stupid any more. No, it's just that when you get………” I peter out as I try and avoid using the word 'older,' but he's ahead of me.
“You mean old and mould?” he squalks as he leaps from his chair in response to the trigger word that sets off alarm bells about death, dying and general morality.
“No, no, no, it's just that sometimes it's hard to remember a particular word. You have that sometimes and we do too.” I nudge spouse to encourage him to also offer words of balm, but his cranium is still full of whirring cogs. Why did I make a fuss about 'stoopid' and risk falling into the quagmire of OCD instead? [translation = the far lesser of two 'evils.'] I nestle him onto my lap for a squeeze, [translation = calming deep proprioceptive input] stroke his back and feed him single Goldfish crackers with the other hand. I hope this will be sufficient distraction.

I try to think of words that rhyme with it. I can't think of any, apart from tipsy, which wouldn't make sense and doesn't have two, very essential “'y's.”
“He did fogortted or he is not forgotted, which it is?”
“He forgot, he can't remember. Oh dear. Never mind. Better luck next time!” I chant in my sing song, ever so annoying tone. I glare at spouse commanding silence, but he is oblivious, lost in the labyrith of word recall. His eyes widen as he emerges from the maze, which puts an electrode to my own brain so that I can shout “PIXIES! Don't play with the pixies in the wood.”
Spouse frowns and raises his index finger prior to verbalizing his objection.
“PIXIES!” I shout, bringing my face and eyes far to close to his.
“Oh! Yes. I see. Pixies it is then. Wouldn't want to give you a word with two 'y's in it now would we?”
“Two 'y's! Two 'y's? TWO 'Y'S! What it is? What is da word being wiv two y's? I want it. I want dah word wiv dah two 'y's.”

Ah yes, finally, at six and a half, he manages that most supreme of skills, the pinnacle of reciprocal conversation, where his question actually references back to the thing that he wants to know about. Hallelujah!

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