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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Learning to speak toddler fluently

Between when your kid learns how to say "mama" and "dada" and when they learn how to say "Mommy why the f*** did you give me chicken when you know I hate chicken?", there's this really awkward and long phase where they talk, but you can't understand a damn word they say.

Audrey is in the depths of this phase now. She talks all the time. She points at things and says their name. She asks me to give her things. And I have no idea what the f*** she wants.

And if I don't understand her, she gets mad. Like it's my fault I didn't immediately grasp what "itzka bee!" was supposed to mean. So, in order to help me keep her vocabulary straight, here is a list of a few of the things Audrey likes to say, along with their English translations:


You can tell what's important to Audrey by how carefully she says the words. Here are a few of the words and phrases she could teach a friggin diction class on:

This surprises no one, as she is obsessed with Elmo and learned to say this word perfectly the first time she heard it.

Audrey loves apples. I give her a big chunk of peeled apple and she carries it around for half an hour gnawing on it like a beaver. Please note, however, that she thinks that all fruits are apples. One time, she wanted an "apple" really badly ... but the apple in question was actually a lemon my mom had zested for a recipe. Audrey pitched a fit until we gave it to her, at which point she kept saying "apple!" and taking a bite, then making a face, then saying "apple!" and taking a bite ...

Audrey thinks that anyone who has not gone through puberty is a "baby". She deeply offended an 11-year-old boy at a restaurant by pointing directly at him and shouting "baby!" The look on his face was priceless.

Uh oh! 
Used 100% of the time when she does something bad. She's a broken record whenever we go shopping together, as she throws things out of the shopping cart and then says "uh oh!" like they were carried away by a strong gust of wind despite her best efforts to control them. Rotten little liar.

The only time Audrey sees an iPad is when we're with my parents ... but she knows the iPad has games on it, so she will walk around crying "IPAD! IPAD! IPAD!" until someone agrees to play it with her. Kids these days, I swear. Technology addicts from birth.

Papa is what Audrey calls my father, her grandfather. She doesn't say "Mommy" properly; she doesn't say "Daddy" properly; she's leagues away from saying anything resembling "Grandma." But "Papa"? Not a problem. Because Papa is the best, apparently.
Stupid Papa.


These are the phrases you might actually be able to figure out, based on context and if she said them a few times. They include:

All done = "Ah-yah" 
This one is easy enough to identify because she will be thrusting an empty cup or yogurt pouch at you while she says it. And if she's "ah-yah" her dinner, you have about one second to react before she pushes her plate off the high chair tray and onto the floor. So ... always be ready for "ah-yah." Or you'll be cleaning ketchup off the ceiling again.

Shoe = "shhhhhhhhhhhhhhoe"

She just learned how to make the "shh" sound, and apparently it takes quite a while to say it properly before moving on with the rest of the word.

Juice = "shhhhhhhhhhhhhhoe"
  You may notice that this sounds exactly the same as 'shoe.' Thankfully, context is usually pretty helpful in figuring out what the hell she's talking about. For example, if she's trying to walk across the kitchen wearing a pair of Jesse's giant slippers and shouting "shhhhhhhoe!" ... she probably wants juice.

Kitty = "tiy", Bunny = "buy"
  Don't worry if you don't catch these ones right away. She will repeat the word approximately six thousand times while pointing at the "tiy" or "buy" in question. We went to an Easter Eggstravaganza a couple weekends ago, and the decorations just blew Audrey's mind. She spent the entire time running around pointing at pictures of bunnies on the tablecloths and demanding that one of us acknowledge every single "buy" she pointed at. It was exhausting.

Mommy = "Ommy"
  She calls me "Ommy", so now I call myself "Ommy" because it's super cute and dammit, it's close enough. Does this mean that when she gets older, she's going to start shortening it to "Om"? "Ughhhhh, Om, you're so embarrassing." I hope that this happens.


Frog = "bah", and Ribbit = "ehh!"
Apparently, the "f" sound is hard to make, so Audrey replaces it with "b" instead. She absolutely knows what frogs are. She absolutely knows what sound they make.

And she absolutely cannot replicate either of these words.

It took me way, way too long to figure out what the hell "bah" was, especially since "bah" saying "ehh" like a constipated person heading into their second hour on the toilet wasn't much of a clue.

And my personal favorite ...

Daddy = "Guy"
I don't understand the process by which "Daddy" turned into "Guy", but there it is: she points at pictures of her father and shouts "guy! guy! guy!" 
This is hilarious, but has potential to be even funnier if I can just get her to start calling him "some guy". We'll work on it this weekend.

"Audrey, who is that?"
"Some guy!"
[everyone lolz]


At least Audrey knows her limits. There are some sounds that are so complex, she won't even give them a try. These include:

"Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
Audrey has a book of nursery rhymes that we read a lot. And every time we get to this one, I rocket through it as fast as I can. Saying the poem so quickly makes me feel alpha as hell. I should time myself and then go brag about it on various web forums! People will be so jealous.

Every time we read Peter Piper, as soon as I finish, I hear Audrey going "pka-pka-pka-pka" almost silently. Like she's just practicing her p and k sounds but not saying any actual words. She knows she doesn't stand a chance against my punishing speed, and she doesn't want to be humiliated. 

I get it.

[elephant noise]

I make an elephant noise by going "brrrrr!" but with flappier lips and a changing intonation. It's not likely to land me an elephant husband or anything, but it's close enough to get the job done.

Every time I do it, Audrey sets her lips and starts going "bbbbbbb ..." but never actually makes a sound. She's like that person standing on the diving board trying to psych themselves out to make the jump, but never actually following through. Maybe one of these days ... ?

Well folks, there you have it: an approximate Audrey-to-English dictionary. It's still a work in progress, and I still feel bad whenever she says a phrase and then looks right at me waiting for an answer ... but oh well; I just say "yeah!" and she seems to accept it.

Also, most animals are called by their sounds, and any large unidentified animal is a "moo." I think this is just a good rule for us all to follow. Really simplifies things, no?

"Moo, I guess."

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