Last night after dinner, Theo and I started a silly word game. I don’t remember if I asked him about his food or if he took the initiative himself, but he soon began describing what he ate with made up words: sneedy food, doodie food, poodoo food. I countered with mostly real words in silly rhyme combinations: snarky barky food, duck cluck food, wizard lizard food. (Actually I made that last one up right now and only wish I thought of it last night.) Melanie and her mom eventually joined in, and we all had a great time laughing at our words and laughing at our reactions to them.
For Theo, almost all words are exciting and fresh. I can see the pleasure on his face as he sounds out a combination for the first time, the thrill of changing it into something else entirely or discovering that night doesn’t just rhyme with flight but also bite and kite.
It’s like he’s tasting a new food, trying out how a word feels in his mouth, deciding if it is pleasant or unpleasant.
I miss that discovery, the experience of a previously unknown sound or mashing together of syllables. It’s one reason I’m drawn to writing. But too often I manage to get stuck in my head, stuck on trying to explain an idea or convey complexity. I would do well to remember Theo’s fascination, his delight at saying Bartleby for the first time. Those surprises are still there if we make a point to look for them. As with so many lessons from Theo, this one is a reminder to not discount the power of play.
What words make you smile? Can you remember any that made an impact the first time you heard them?
Here are a few favorites off the top of my head: pulchritude, indigent, frivolous, parsnip, ogle.