Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's a Double Meaning in That

My son doesn’t have much of a vocabulary yet. In fact, his total vocabulary consists of the following: “up”, “ball”, “bye-bye”, and “k” (which means “clock”). But for having only four words, he gets an awful lot of mileage out of them.

For one thing, each word has multiple meanings to him. “Up” means not only “up” as in going up stairs, but it also refers to the stairs themselves. I discovered this a few days ago when we were driving on a road in a hilly area where all the houses had stairs leading to them, and he eagerly pointed at each one and announced, “Up!” Similarly, “bye-bye” means not only “goodbye”, but is also used to indicate a door of any kind, whether or not anyone is leaving through it at the time.

The multiple use of “ball” developed from his after-service playtime in the church gymnasium, which has several basketball hoops. Every time we pull into the church parking lot, he points and exclaims, “Ball!” which I assumed referred to the basketballs that he plays with there, but then I noticed that when we pulled into our own driveway, he pointed to the neighbors’ house across the road and announced, “Ball!” as well. I was confused, since I didn’t see any balls there – until I realized that they have a basketball hoop in their driveway. He confirmed this association when we were driving by a random house with a basketball hoop and he again announced, “Ball!”, and once again when the Sesame Street set featured a basketball hoop. So apparently “ball” now refers to “basketball hoop” as well as anything vaguely resembling an actual ball.

But the most flexible word in his vocabulary is most definitely “k”. “K” applies to any kind of clock or timepiece, from a grandfather clock to a wall clock to a clock on a church tower to a wristwatch. But it also applies to anything with any kind of a dial or face, and anything round with hashmarks on it. Hospitals and grocery stores are both rife with “k” things, by this definition. Hospitals have blood pressure monitors with round gauges and bright orange hands, oxygen tank pressure gauges, even stethoscopes with printing on the business end. Grocery stores have big round produce scales and small deli thermometers, all of which he helpfully calls my attention to with a proud “K!”.

I’m certain that he’ll be adding more words to his vocabulary very soon. Hopefully, “vroom!” will give way to “car”, “buh-dup-a-dup” will become the more recognizable “banana”, and the words we’ve been repeating over and over, like “Mama” and “Dadda” and “cup” and “help” will finally sink in. But until they do, at least he’s making good use of the words he has. And hopefully, his creative use of language will continue to expand even as his vocabulary does!

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