It’s Not All Mary Poppins

language is slippery

“I’m not as old as I used to be,” Nigel announces.

(Nigel, for those of you new to Mary’s place, is an alumnus. He headed off to Big Kid School a while back, but visits on PD days.) “I used to be four and a half, and now I’m four and three quarters.”

(Does he know the difference between one-half and three-quarters, I wonder? Does he even kinow what a half and quarter are? I doubt it, but he does know that three-quarters is more than one-half. Whatever they are. It’ll do for now!)

“I’m not as old as I used to be.”

He means, of course, that he’s not the same age as he used to be. He’s not somehow getting younger — show me how you do that, Nigel! — he’s gotten older. It’s a subtle distinction in vocabulary, but a world of distinction in meaning. A lot of language is like that.

Fascinating to watch them catch the nuances, and really, quite astonishing what we manage to figure out as young as we all do.

Slippery, and fascinating.

November 17, 2009 - Posted by | Developmental stuff, Nigel | , ,


  1. oh! my son does this all the time! he says up for down, open for closed, and others i can’t think of at the moment. the last funny one he came up with was “can i listen to the woodchopper song”–he meant nutcracker! it’s almost like any word will do! he gets so excited in communicating the message that he just puts in any old word!

    Comment by Dana | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Oh, I just love observing kids as they figure out all the nuances of speech and expression! Quite fascinating!

    Comment by Rosie_Kate | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Isn’t it amazing to watch the language develop. My son is working very hard on what happened recently or a long time ago.
    The other really fascinating one is that all summer we’ve been talking about what trees are conifers and which ones are deciduous. As soon as the leaves began to fall it was like a light bulb went off! Now when we drive down the street he call out which trees are which. Yesterday he looked at me and told me “I really know my trees, Mama.” šŸ™‚

    Comment by Dani | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. The crazy thing is I had to read that sentance twice to catch the mistake.

    Funny how the human mind relies so heavily on context, that you can say all kinds of things and people will still understand what you mean.

    I’m not as think as you drunk I am!

    Comment by ifbyyes | November 17, 2009 | Reply

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