It’s Not All Mary Poppins

A slip of the lips

What do you call that circular toy, a round piece of rigid plastic tubing that you set to spinning around your hips and try to keep up there by just the right timing of hip-swaying?

Yes, that’s what I’d call it, too.

Jazz, however, mangles pronounces it slightly differently. She spots the kid-sized one in the back porch as I go out there to retrieve some spring toys so that we may play outside in the (freakishly) warm weather. (Twenty-seven degrees! In MARCH! For five days now! Though the record-breaking hot spell is broken now: today’s high is 17, and for the rest of the week we’re back to more seasonal 0 – 10C temps. But has it been WONDERFUL? Aaaaahhhh…)

Jazz spots the thing in the back porch as I’m lifting the back of buckets and shovels, sifters and tractors.

“Oh! A hoo-er hoop! Mary, there is a hoo-er hoop!”

Snort. I’ve heard lots of weird mispronunciations in my time, but they usually make intuitive sense. I had a (much younger) cousin who used that exact same pronunciation for “squirrel”. Made for entertaining streetcar rides through Toronto, I’ll tell you, and excited two-year-old bouncing on the seat beside me and pointing out the window. “Look, Mary, look! A whore!!!”

You get quick in those situations. Before everyone on the car can be horrified that ‘my’ two-year-old not only knows the word, but can use it properly, I would leap in and ostentatiously point past the young woman on the sidewalk to the tree behind her head. “Yes, Jeremy. There is a squirrel. Squir-rel.”

“Hooo-er.” Yeah. See, all you people on the streetcar, he really is talking about the rodent! But ‘squirrel’ to ‘hoo-er’ isn’t so much of a stretch. Those initial esses are hard to pronounce, and so are ells and ‘qu’s. And there is an ‘r’ in there. Somewhere. So it’s weird, but you can see it. Sorta. But ‘hoo-er’ from ‘hula’??

Nope. How she gets ‘er’ from ‘la’ is beyond me. However, I don’t really want her bellowing that across the playground. Let’s send some other children home with a shiny new word which will sound much, much worse at home than if their earnest mommies had the visual to explain the joke.

“That’s hula, sweetie. Hooo – lllla.”

Her blue eyes fix on mine earnestly, little pink lips form the word carefully, carefully.




“Try this, lovie. La, la, la.”

“La, la, la.”

So far, so good. “Hoo, hoo, hoo.”

“Hoo, hoo, hoo.”



Okay, it’s clear she’s just not capable. She’s really trying, but it’s just not going to come out right. Goodness only knows how her mind/lips/tongue turn a ‘la’ into an ‘er’, but that’s what they do, and there’s no changing it today. But, just for the entertainment:

“Hula, hula, hula!”

“Whore, whore, whooore!”

We don’t take the hoop to the park.

March 21, 2012 - Posted by | Jazz, the things they say! | , , ,


  1. That reminds me of when my oldest was 2 and trying to say “Dump Truck”…he said it “dum fruck”. The harder I worked on the “T” (T-T-T- TRUCK) sound, the more it sounded like an “F” sound and the word NO parent wants their child to yell. So I stopped pushing the right sound. 🙂 My husband’s coworkers LOVED to ask him to say Dump truck, and he’d laugh and say it for them. They were so sad when he got the right sound down.

    Aw, he was bringing happiness to the world with him dum frucks. Around here, Rory has only just outgrown “dumb fucks”; now it’s “dumb fwucks”. I’m calling that an improvement…

    Comment by athenamiles | March 22, 2012 | Reply

    • I am a head teacher in an early toddler room at a daycare. This week was transportation week. This week I learned that one of my little boys refers to dump trucks as….dumb *ucks. And yes, I did point out every dump truck to him in every book and puzzle we saw this week. And yes, I giggled every time and then said…yes, a dump truck.

      Comment by Brooke | March 30, 2012 | Reply

  2. Around Halloween when my kids had just turned two we were walking the neighborhood looking at decorations. The big exciting house had an entire pirate ship in the yard. This was great until my daughter went to school and told her teachers that “Mommy took me to see a pile of sh**.” It took me a minute to realize it was a pirate ship. From then on we just called it a boat.

    “From then on we just called it a boat.” That line made me laugh out loud, loudly. Perfect comic timing!

    When my son was around 18-19 months old we went out to eat, which was an extremely special treat (fast food). We got our food and my son very loudly ask, “Can we sh** on b**ches?” Everyone turned and looked at us and the entire place went silent. So I loudly answered, “Yes, we can SIT on BENCHES.” Most people laughed with us, but there were a few who continued to give us the evil eye.

    At least half of those still giving you the evil eye are just slow on the uptake, I figure, and some of the rest probably preferred the first version! And some people? Some people, it is true, just enjoy sneering and judging. Tedious, but they’re out there…

    Comment by Jessica | March 22, 2012 | Reply

  3. my friends little boy loved the fat controller from Thomas the Tank engine but pronounced it “fa – kingtroller”…

    Just when you think there are no new ways for an innocent child to drop the F-bomb, another one comes along!!! 🙂

    Comment by Jenny UK | March 22, 2012 | Reply

  4. When my youngest brother was little he announced loudly and frequently that he wanted to go to the whore lady and get apples. The lovely grey haired owner he had wrapped around his little finger-hence the free apples- would have been horrified.

    Comment by jwgmom | March 22, 2012 | Reply

  5. Perhaps it’s an accent thing but I can definitely see hoo-er from hula, but not from squirrel. I miss out most of my consonants when I’m back home (have to carefully put them in for the benefit of the southerners I live with these days or they do’h nuh wha ah ta’in bouw).

    Definitely an accent thing. It would make total sense if Jazz were a little English toddler. The way people say ‘er’ in the UK sounds to our Canadian ears like “ah”, but as Jazz is a Canadian toddler, the sound at the end of ‘whore’ is the same sound that starts words like ‘rabbit’. Nothing at all like the ‘ah’ at the end of ‘hula’!

    The whore-squirrel muddle is a bit convoluted, I grant you…

    Comment by May | March 24, 2012 | Reply

  6. Haha this has cracked me up. Kids say all kinds of random stuff. I love it. Best part of the job sometimes. One of the little girls I look after said to me that she could ask for apple juice in English (she speaks French) I was real excited and thought I had kicked nanny ass teaching her heaps of stuff and things when she spouted these word: “My Uncle is an Uncle Bear” … not quite as unfortunate as a slip of the lip; this was just downright wrong, but has kept me amused no end.

    Love Elle xo

    Comment by Elle | March 26, 2012 | Reply

  7. we have lots of bilingual pit falls. “Digger” in German is Bagger which sounds just like, yes that slightly inappropriate word in English. But hey, I can’t exactly not let my kids say digger, so I just pretend I didn’t hear it and smile

    Comment by cartside | March 27, 2012 | Reply

  8. oh yeah and I remember this one which is still funny 2 years later: combine hamster (combine harvester)

    Comment by cartside | March 27, 2012 | Reply

  9. That’s so cute… and funny in its own way lol. Good read.

    Comment by My First Skool | March 30, 2012 | Reply

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