I’m a bit of a stickler for grammar. At work, my fellow grammar-obsessing partner-in-crime (dude, check those properly placed hyphens) and I are known as the Grammar Slammers because we’re relentless in our quest to copyedit everything that leaves the office.
And this is what I bought her one Christmas:
I can’t imagine why we drive our co-workers crazy.
Some of my favorite Twitter accounts are @APStylebook (and, of course, @FakeAPStylebook, because who doesn’t love some good grammar humor?) and @GrammarGirl.
One of the proudest moments of my collegiate career at Syracuse University was acing Newhouse’s famed Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test (hey, I never denied being a Newhouse Nerd).
I tell you all this not to make you hate me (it really is an obnoxious habit, I know) but to forewarn you that I really do dig proper English. That’s why the confession I’m about to make is so shocking — I adore my toddler’s broken English. Every time she misuses a word or verb tense, I just think it’s the cutest thing in the world.
- In her language, blessings = glassings. At preschool, she’s learned a prayer song to sing before eating. It goes like this: “God our Father. God our Father. Once again. Once again. We thank you for our glassings, thank you for our glassings. Aaaa-men. Aaaa-men.” I think the big guy is getting the message.
- Also at preschool, they sometimes go to the parish hall for indoor play if it’s raining outside. Except in her world, E. goes to the Parrot Shop. Her teacher and I have no idea where this came from, but we both think it’s hysterical.
- Another song she has taken some verbal liberties with is “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Here’s her version: “Row, row, janky boat. Janky down the stream. Mary. Mary. Mary. Mary. Life is butta dream.”
- Whenever she is looking around the house for her favorite baby, she’ll ask me, “Mommy, where is her?” I just never have the heart to correct the her to a she.
- And my absolute favorite is “Hold you.” As in, “Mommy, hold youuuuu” when she wants me to pick her up.
That last one has sparked a battle in our house. Every time E. says that to me, DadJovi tries to correct her. “No, it’s hold ME, not you.” But then it gets really funny in a “Who’s On First” kind of way because she will tell him, “No Daddy, not you. Mommy.”
I keep telling him to let it go. She’s not even 3 yet. She has a fabulous vocabulary as it is and I think the little grammatical missteps are part of the charm of toddlers. But he keeps arguing that we’re at a stage where we should be correcting her. Figures. He is the child of two AP English teachers.
Am I just dooming my child to delayed grammar satisfaction? (That’s got to be a future therapy-worthy issue, no?) Am I stunting her grammar growth? Or is he messing with her verbal experimentation, thereby making her a less creative and exploratory child?
What are some of your favorite toddlerisms? And, more importantly, which one of us is right?
Mignon (@grammargirl) says
J @ J's Everyday Fashion says
Well, I am certainly no parenting expert, but I’ve heard that you should repeat the sentence (or phrase) back to the child using the correct grammar. That way you aren’t directly correcting them, but then they will hear the correct version and eventually start saying it that way!
It’s so funny that you posted this, because I think 3 years old is a bit of a tipping point…although, I say this without any experience in motherhood, so take it or leave it.
At 3, my parents tell me I was reading words, speaking in complete sentences and understanding a bit of grammatical logic.
I keenly remember my grandmother — Australian and very formal — teaching me to say “Pardon Me?” instead of “What?” and explaining the difference between “he and I” and “he and me.” But it was gentle — never a lecture, more of a subtle correction. My mom did it the same way.
It IS so cute to hear the words changed. I think maybe that’s different, because she’ll obviously learn that with time. But with the grammar (“where is her?”) I think it’s probably time to start correcting.
Do they have a toddler version of ES&L? THAT is a book that would sell.
My 2 year old also says, “Hold You” and I love it!
You know what’s so funny? My husband has been drilling E. to say “hold me” but I told her I like “hold you” so now she uses a different phrase for each parent — DadJovi gets the “hold me” and I get the “hold you.” Win, win!