It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Babytalk, part two

Yesterday’s post, and particularly Z’s comment, got me to thinking with great fondness of long-gone turns of phrase in my children’s lives.

At the age of three, Haley had the most lyrical imagination. I wish that I’d thought to write her creative phrases and delicious adjectives down at the time, because I know that hundreds have been lost forever. (Can you hear my heartfelt sigh?) Two stay with me.

Upon encountering a lawn sprinkler for the first time, the sort that is a plastic doughnut that sits on the grass and sends out a sort of half-torus of radiating arcs of water, she exclaimed,

“Look, mummy! It’s a droopy-up!”

Isn’t that just so sweeeet?

We were driving home after dark one winter evening. She must have been outside after dark before. Even sleep-hardass Mary wouldn’t have had her children in bed by four p.m., which is when it gets dark in January in these parts, but for whatever reason, she noticed the streetlights for the first time.

“Oooooh.” Her voice was awestruck. “Mummy! See the crystal trees?”

When Adam was just shy of two, we lived a few blocks from a fire station. Imagine the excitement when a firetruck burst onto the street, the deep blast of the horn, the shrill call of the siren. Imagine a little boy in footed pajamas, standing up in his crib and pointing at the window, bouncing to the noise, and calling out,

“Vider-fucks! Vider-fucks!”

There was also “own-der-eye-gle”, which was almost as exciting. Too bad those things don’t have sirens.

Emma, for reasons known only to herself, called socks “gookums” for a solid year. (No, of course I didn’t correct her. She was my third. By now I’d learned how fleeting and precious these things are; I’d also learned that she’d get this sort of thing right without my help…)

Gookums. It’s still a puzzlement!

She was also the one who called her paternal grandparents “Gamma and Gamma”, which was cute right there, but even funnier was her indignation when the WRONG “Gamma” answered.

“Not you, Gamma! GAMMA!” Well, that clears it right up.

It’s probably just as well we didn’t know which was which, because she played favourites. “Gamma is NICER than Gamma.” Okay, then. (And you know, to this day I have no idea which Gamma was the “nicer” one. They were both pretty-near perfect grandparents, far as I could make out.)

Okay. Those are some of my fond remembrances. Thank you to Haley for giving me a couple of these! Note to all you young mothers out there: WRITE THESE THINGS DOWN! You think you could never possibly forget — but you will. And it will cause you deep regret, and many a wistful sigh.

So. Let’s write some of them down, right now! What are your children’s cute sayings, mispronounciations, malapropisms … How do your kids mangle the language in a totally ADORABLE way? Tell us in the comments.

Share, share, share!

July 22, 2008 - Posted by | the things they say! | , , ,


  1. At our house, the moon is a moon-ball. Because it’s a circle, and anything circular is obviously a ball.


    Comment by Lel | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. My favorite was at Christmas when Jeffrey looked at a Christmas Card from my aunt and shouted “Sakes”!!
    It was a Thomas the train engine card and he was surrounded by candy canes. It took me a long while to realize that the “snakes” were actually candy canes.
    All Christmas season he called them “candy sakes” and then would hiss at them (like a snake, of course).
    I still think it’s the cutest thing. πŸ™‚

    It IS the cutest thing! Bet it didn’t stop him from eating them, though…

    Comment by Dani | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  3. My nephew is 12 now, but there are a few things I remember from when he was just a li’l guy:

    Upon tasting spicy food: “That makes my tongue sick!”

    Seeing something frightening: “That scawes my eyes!”

    Little sister Catherine made her appearance when he was about three. Of course, he had some difficulty pronouncing her name.

    Me: What’s that baby’s name?
    Him: Caf-o-win.
    Me: (pronouncing it just as he did) Caf-o-win?
    Him: No, Caf. O. Win.
    Me: Caf-o-win?
    Him: NO! CAF. O. WIN!

    Teasing him was just too much fun.

    Oh, I just love that conversation. I have it over and over again, with all sorts of different children, and it tickles me every time. (No, I don’t need to get out more. It’s a sign of a healthy mind to take pleasure in small things.) They know what it should sound like, but it’s pretty clear they don’t know they’re not managing it. Hee.

    Comment by Sharkey | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  4. I was sorry when Squiffany stopped pronouncing elephant ‘ephelant’.

    My youngest son’s first word was ‘Da’ which meant water and was very useful – it meant he wanted a drink, it was raining, there was a puddle, he saw the sea, he was going to have a bath and, even better, if he said it twice, his daddy smiled. That one word turned him from a frustrated baby into a communicative one.

    I think mine all said ‘ephelant’, like they all called it ‘pus-ghetti’. Ketchup was “catch-pop” for one of them. (Adam?) Oh, this is great … the memories come trickling in!

    So, did your son say “dada” before “mama”, then?

    Comment by Z | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  5. My brother used to say “badger big” all the time — it wasn’t until we were on the highway and a garbage truck went by that we finally figured out what he was talking about!!

    I baby sat a kid who told me his middle name was “Lizard”. When I asked why — he said it was because his Mom’s name was “Elizardbeth”. Those were fun days!!

    How does one get “badger big” from “garbage truck”, one wonders? The same way you get “gookums” from “socks”, I guess!

    One of my favourite cartoons has a character named Elizabeth; her brother’s childhood nickname for her is “Lizard-breath”.

    Comment by Cindy | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. This is why I’m so glad I have a blog. It gives me the opportunity to capture those cute cute phrases now, before it’s too late. Baby book? Um, right. No audience = not as much incentive. But getting to share their adorability with the world? Oh yeah, I’ll do that regularly.

    My youngest is just starting a few “words.” Everything four-legged and furry was a “tat!” Even chipmunks. She’s just starting to differentiate dogs now. Lions are fun, though, because she’ll growl when seeing a picture of one of them. Now if I can just capture that one on video…

    Of course, her first consistently-easy-to-recognize phrase? “All done!”

    My eldest (almost 4 now) called umbrellas “umbrumbras.” That was my favorite as since we lived in Ireland at the time, she got to say it a lot. I was a tish sad when she finally started getting that one right.

    It is a bit wistful-making when they start to clear out the babyisms.

    You’ve reminded me of my niece, who, when she was about two, accompanied me to the zoo. All animals smaller than about three feet were “Kitty!” Animals over that were “Goggie!” Except for the big male silverback gorilla. He was “Daddy!” She’s twenty-three and getting married next month, and that’s still a favourite story…

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  7. When my niece first started talking, she called our cats “mows” (rhymes with “cows”), which meant “meows”. She called my parents’ little black cat the “black mow” for the longest time. I was sad when she started calling them “kitties” because the other was so cute!

    Aw, that is cute. We know these things will fade in time, but it’s always just a bit of a pity when they do!

    Comment by June | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  8. Oh it’s so true Mary…we do forget. I can remember being in hysterics at things my kids said when they were just learning to talk but for the life of me can’t remember what they said.


    Heck, I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, so I can jot down blog-worthy stuff that happens when we’re out for a walk, otherwise by the time we got home, it’d be gone, gone, gone. Remember a cute turn of phrase for twenty years? HA! Of course, when I was 22, I had no idea it was going to get this bad…

    I think I will join you in that Sigh…

    Comment by Zayna | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  9. My four year old son calls his pantlegs his “leg-sleeves.” As in, “I can’t get my legs into my leg-sleeves.”

    And his sister, who is almost seven and quite advanced in all things literary, still says “banklet” instead of “blanket.” We haven’t corrected it because it is the only thing left over from her babyhood, and she says it so fast that I don’t think anyone else picks up on the error.

    “Leg-sleeves” makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I rather think we should all start calling them that! “Banklet” is cute, too. Maybe her friends are so used to hearing that version from her they haven’t noticed it isn’t standard!

    Comment by karyn | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  10. Our little next-door neighbour calls the slide at the park a “Whee!” (because that’s the sound the parents make as she goes down it.)

    Hee. Like the kids who call a motorcycle a “vroom-vroom” or an ambulance a “woo-woo-woo”!!!

    Comment by Lucy | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  11. My now three year old used to call shoes Dikadas. We’re not sure why, but they were dikadas for almost a year. Also, when she was two she had two imaginary friends with whom she visited regularly: Nonky Wonky and Mama Chum. In fact, around 2.5 she started coming up with her own rhymes (an activity she still loves) and her first was “Mama Chum, Mama Chum, you are wacky. Mama Chum, Mama Chum, please come backy.”

    My youngest, who will be two in November, is still a little mime (I’m not worried; my three year old didn’t talk until her second birthday either and started with 3-word phrases). I wish I could somehow record his signs because he’s developed a complicated sign-language that I find just hilarious and wonderful. It’s amazing the conversations we have without speaking a word!

    I wonder if that’s a variation of “Adidas”? Would she have been exposed to the brand name, maybe?

    My cousin Jeremy had an invisible friend, named (not quite so creatively) “Jeremy Boing-boing”. My kids’ grandfather had one called “Humpty Moe”.

    The sign language is fascinating. Is this something he devised on his own, or has he been exposed to real signing? It would be great to catch it. Can you capture him with a camcorder when he’s not aware of you?

    Comment by Amanda | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  12. My oldest child’s name is Valor. So, for a very long time we were confused about what he was trying to say when he said “valor-gator.” Always wanted to ride the “valor-gator.” Can you guess?

    It’s the elevator. Ha!

    I use the phrase “uh-oh” to warn my children that they have done something naughty and are about to be sent to there bedroom or corner.

    My youngest is just learning to speak, and his very first word is “Uh-ohhhh!” He doesn’t mispronounce it either– he sounds just like me. So cute. I die laughing each time he does it.

    Kinda cool that they named the lift after your son, huh?

    Is your youngest using it correctly, too? Like, does he know when something’s happened that would provoke your “uh-ohhh!”?

    Comment by Ki | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  13. My youngest (now 7) still says “aposed to” instead of “supposed to”. He also was a huge fan of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear. We would call airplane (especialy those with a “jet stream”) Buzz Lightyear, except he would say Bah Yiyear. Another one he had was “bleepy” instead of “sleepy”. I do have a diary for each of my boys and have recorded most of their sayings. My father collected the sayings of each of his four grandchildren and we laugh ourselves silly reading them.

    Comment by Sarah | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  14. Nearly two (in two weeks!) here. My favorites are that he says “sifh” for fish and “fla-bee-bee” for butterfly.

    Comment by Kate | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  15. My 4-year-old has almost lost her baby words; we will be so sad when she finally learns to say trousers rather than trowers. We have her cuddly toy weebee to remind us though: a rabbit was a weebee for a long time. My 20-month-old is just starting with words rather than mime and almost everything starts with G. Gak = sock. Gar = car. Ga! with increasing insistence just means “that” and isn’t it obvious what I mean mum are you stupid or something.

    Comment by Lisa | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  16. Ah, my oldest called dump trucks “dumb fucks” for awhile. He was the hit at my husband’s office–they’d all ask him to say “Dump truck”…he’d say it, they’d laugh and he’d laugh along with them, oblivious. He could say Truck, so I tried to wrork on the “t” sound, but it just turned “dump fruck “to “dumb fuck” so I stopped and he soon grew out of it. He’s now five and still calls the living room the “linging room” and says “cryring”. I’ll be sad when he gets those two right some day. His younger brother skipped the misspeak with the trucks but has his one ones. He also decided to give his “Blankie” a name (Blankie Miles) and likes to call for it while looking for it. As if it’ll answer.

    Comment by Tina | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  17. My dd uses the phrase “all day morning” to describe how long something might take to do, esp. if it’s long. And she says it like it’s going to be the most difficult thing she’s ever done. She’ll be 3 in Sept., and it’s started to get used less and less already. We also had “corn on the tob” last night with dinner. And, if you drive through the center of town, it’s the “town town” instead of downtown. We go out of our way on drives to go through downtowns just to hear it. I’m sure there are many, many more…I just can’t think of them. I really have to start taking notes! Thanks Mary, for your great blog!!! Your a wonderful break in my crazy daycare day!

    Comment by Patti | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  18. My daughter used to call an octopus an “ock-piss” when she was around two, and she would tell us something by beginning, “Ack-shee, Daddy…” (actually). Lately she likes saying, “ConGLADulations,” and when I gently corrected her, she said, “I know what the real word is; I just like saying congladulations because you’re GLAD for the person.”

    Can’t argue with that!

    Comment by Alison | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  19. My oldest daughter will be 3 next month. My favorite of her phrases are as follows:

    Woo-cee: Her younger sister is Lucy. When Lucy first arrived, she was called Woo-Fee. Now it’s progressed somewhat.

    Un-done-wock: to unlock something.

    Comment by Erin | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  20. My favourite right now is “sunscream.”

    Comment by bea | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  21. They are so funny… but oh, I LOVE the “crystal trees!”

    Mostly, mine is pretty clear with her speech and such so we haven’t had lots of mispronunciations, but lately, she’s been saying in pirate style, “Shimmy my timbits.” Yeah, we’re not correcting that. It’s just too cute to lose.

    Comment by kittenpie | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  22. Mstr A also came up with some classics – long forgotten now:( But I’ll never forget one. He was just under 2 years old, camping at Nottingham castle, which is a lovely castle:) We had wandered around looking at the various medieval displays – crafts, falconry, clothing etc. he had been enjoying himself collecting pebbles and leaves and grass and sticks (as 2 year olds do) when suddenly he ran up as excited as I had ever seen him
    “mummy, mummy, I found an owl leaf!”
    and he proudly showed me a feather:)

    LMB used to tell me that she couldn’t carry anything because she was “full up of hands”

    Comment by juggling mother | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  23. I love this one from my 3 year old.

    “Actually, Momma that happened Laster-Day.”

    He also has the wonderful, “I’m all outta kissess and hugs and dee-dees and eye-kisses (and anything else he can think of)”

    Comment by Tika | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  24. “Don’t touch my toy – it dek-i-let” (delicate)
    DD hears us using the word to keep her from touching our special things, so why not use it herself.

    Also, if I’m lying down on the floor (poor tired mommy) and she doesn’t want me to, she says, “lie up, Mommy!”

    Comment by lynn | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  25. I’m so bad at recording these things. Our favourites at the moment: bedda (breakfast), kssss (croissant; yeah, pampered mum equals pampered kids!), Big Ol’ Daddy Rabbit (The King from Disney’s Cars), dizzy (sleepy), I have no more breath, I can’t eat that because it’s not delicious for me, and–this one took us a while to figure out–Get down here, you niskimants! (miscreants).

    Comment by Kat | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  26. When my now-5-yo daughter was around 3, if I asked her to carry something, she’d say (exasperated), “I can’t, mom! I’ve got too many stuff in my hands!” My son, who’s 2, calls both bicycles and motorcycles “bike-issles”. Too cute! And both of them have found that their favorite exclamation is “stinky tuts!” No idea where that comes from.

    Oh, and like Tina’s little boy, my son has named his blanket “buppy” and he’ll go around calling “Buppy, wheh ahh yoooo?” when he’s looking for it.

    Thanks, Mary, this is fun!

    Comment by Sarahtoo | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  27. goosebombs for goosebumps
    yesterweek for yesterday
    cubumber for cucumber

    Comment by Dana | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  28. My son is 7 and has outgrown most of his baby words. But one he still does that I find so endearing is “yester night” instead of “last night.” He also says “nightmere,” “head-ick” for headache(makes sense), and “driff-rent.”

    Daughter is 2.5 – I think I posted about “key-buzz” instead of “because” yesterday. That’s her cutest one right now.

    Comment by BookMama | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  29. oh Jude has loads and I cant think of ay right now!

    I read somewhere that mama and dada and the first sounds any baby makes and thats why as language evolved they became words for parents!

    I remember one, duzzlebee – bumblebee, I always call them duzzlebees now! tapapoe – potatoe, banato – tomato, its all coming back to me now!

    Comment by jenny uk | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  30. Hi Mary, I don’t think Katie would’ve heard Adidas at that age because we hadn’t started allowing the t.v. yet or anything, although one never knows, I guess. I laughed out loud at Humpty Moe! My father had 5 imaginary friends, and to this day he uses their names when playing bridge in the newspaper’s activities section or when he’s shooting pool by himself. I’m not sure of their names. I’ll have to ask him.

    Cooper has devised his sign-language all on his own. My sister inlaw did give me a sign book when he was born because Katie talked late and she thought my second might too. But with two babies only 18 months apart, I never had a chance to so much as crack the spine. I should try to videotape it though, because he doesn’t just name things; he has full conversations, telling me about what’s happening, what he wants to do next, even asking questions. “Where’s my toy airplane?” is him running around in circles with arm out straight like wings for a few seconds followed quickly by him standing still abruptly and shrugging his shoulders and turning his hands out and up in that universal “I don’t know” way.

    Comment by Amanda | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  31. Just some cute ones (that my husband and I borrow):

    Hangabur (hamburger)
    Dollafin (dolphin)
    Sa-fear (sphere)

    Comment by midlife mommy | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  32. Ninky-Pans! Ninky-Pans! (Stinky Pants)

    The sweetest thing my littlest charge has done lately is sing along to the Ting Tings song, word perfect – “Vey caw me Stay-seeee… vey caw me Jane… that’s not my name! – My name’s Yorrance.”

    Laurence is just turned 3. He calls helicopters “hett-uh-totters” and I will be so sad when he can finally pronounce his “L”.

    “Cyair… i yuff oo” is too cute!

    Comment by claire | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  33. “Happy Burpday!” It lasted until his 7th birthday too!

    “Pecause” (because)
    “Neku” (Thank you) which evolved into “Nanks” and now, at four, “ThaNanks”

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  34. oh where to begin… so many cute options… pouring over the journal that I kept (past tense, she’s seven now and well, the entries are less frequent)
    -short term imaginary friend was Frotto Frogoto
    -hoo hoos (owls)
    -first 3 word phrase “more chocolate now”
    -“one for the little boy who lives down the drain”
    -she insisted that I wash the strawberries because they had “tentacles” on them… I was severely puzzled over this one till Papa came home and deciphered “chemicals” (damned pesticides) !!

    Comment by carrie | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  35. We still say nossing or anysing over here. And yet, ‘thank you’ is gankoo.

    But, as I posted a couple weeks ago, we were driving and K blurted out “what is he in the world doing?” Which I thought was the best phrase so far!

    Comment by Angela | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  36. Peanut doesn’t have many words yet, but her favorite? “Num-nums!” – to be used only when spotting something particularly delicious. Especially tim-bits.

    (And really, is there anything cuter than a toddler eating a tim-bit?)

    Nope. That’s why, despite having a no-junk-food policy at my house, we go to Tim Horton’s at least once a month…

    Comment by b*babbler | July 24, 2008 | Reply

  37. Oh my, those are all so cute.

    My favourite though has to be bea’s contribution…


    That’s hilarious.

    Comment by Zayna | July 27, 2008 | Reply

  38. So cute!

    My oldest called trucks “dadoo” for a long time, for no real reason. A helicopter was an “uppee-dadoo”.

    Now, at 3.5 he’s much more articulate. But today he did ask me to hold his picture so it didn’t “wind away”.

    Comment by urbanmummy | July 30, 2008 | Reply

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