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Friday, November 8, 2013

Personal Lexical Gaps

My children get their English mostly from me; they go to school in Japanese, and when they are out of the house, it's all Japanese. With their Dad too, it's Japanese. So their English mostly comes from me, which is interesting because when I hear them use any phrase, I know I must use it too; sometimes I'm surprised to find out what I sound like. Likewise when there's a gap in their personal lexicon, I know I must never have used whichever word is missing in their presence.

So the other day I was telling my 11-year-old son a story about someone doing something stupid, and I ended the story with, "Duh!"

After a beat, my son said, "Mom, what's  'Duh' mean?" I had a very brief self-congratulatory moment, thinking I must not have spoken condescendingly about anyone to him before, when I realized that I had just broken my previously unknown and now-no-longer-commendable streak.

"It's when you expect someone to know something, and when they don't, you want to let them know that you are surprised that they don't know it," I said as diplomatically as I could. "Actually, it's not very nice," I added, in the hopes that he would decide not to use it in the future.

My hopes were immediately dashed.

"As in "You don't know what 'Duh' means???? Duh!" he said.

We both laughed. "You have a great sense of irony," I told him.

After a brief pause, he said, "Mom, what's 'irony'?"


Yesterday I got the nicest rejection letter ever, nicer even than many acceptance letters I've received. It's an art, the personal rejection.


Chris said...

Your family's English-speaking situation is exactly the same as that between Zen and me. Recently I've wondered about a phrasing that he often uses: "speaking of, . . . ". I wasn't aware that I used it very often--or at all. Can't see how he picked it up from another source. . .

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Sounds very familiar, Chris. Be proud that your son is learning to sound like a tiny adult, rather than learning how to insult someone in a passive-aggressive way, as I just taught my son.

Actually, my sons sound like little adults too. When we visit their cousins in the US, they pick up younger speech, but it goes away.....and they are back to sounding like me. And I even sound old-fashioned for an adult, not getting periodic injections of newly coined words, etc.

But at least our kids are keeping up with their English, even if it is Middle English by the time they get it!