When my sister was a toddler, she didn’t quite speak English. It’s not that she made up a full twin-speak language, but she did have a few special words. Her favorite sweater was named farful. Any snack, from a cracker all the way to an eclair, was a whoa-whoa. One grandmother was the perfectly typical Granma, the other was DumDum. And her bellybutton (only hers, not yours or mine) was inexplicably named Lena-lena-lena-lade.
This was at least partially my fault. I was three years older and fairly well-versed in the English language (baby-talk division) by the time Karen was able to make any intelligible sound more complex than da or ma. I was happy to serve as translator, and probably held her linguistic progress back at least a few months.
Karen referred to herself as Dingy, which was always good for a laugh. But she didn’t just look in the mirror and associate ‘Dingy’ with her own face. We’d say Karen, but she heard and said Dingy. A girl on my swim team became Dingy Edwards, and my mother’s friend was Dingy Green. Her brain seemed to have just a few wires crossed.
By the time she said her first full sentence it seemed that a special thing might have been lost. But as first sentences go, “Mommy, no more diapers,” was cute, articulate, and surprisingly enough, accurate.
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