Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Baby Talk Bound to be Misunderstood

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Baby Talk Bound to be Misunderstood


Small children often use “onomatopoeic words” that imitate real-world sounds made by animals or things. For example, to describe a dog, a Japanese child would say “wan-wan” while an American kid would “bow-wow.”

I heard this sometime. When an ambulance came with its siren on, a Japanese boy, who was no older than one year old, yelled, “Peepoo, peepoo.” That impressed an American who was there. She commented, “People? What a clever boy!”

Also, this is about my daughter. She has recently started describing a car by uttering “put-poo.” I should have taught her to say “boot-boo,” using the voiced plosive “b,” but she remembers it as “put-poo” that includes the unvoiced plosive “p.” Whenever she sees a car, she gets excited, saying, “Put-poo came. Put-poo.” Then I nod, adding “Yes, put-poo came.” I suspect that Americans who hear our conversations would think of us as “a strange family who always talks about poo-poos.” I hope my daughter will someday learn the word “car.” Until then, I keep trying....

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