Under the most recent job title of “Domestic Goddess” on my vast and now seemingly meaningless resume, I’m planning to add the qualification, “interpreter.” To be specific, I am working diligently on mastering the rather complicated language of “Toddlerese.” All moms have been required to master this intriguing language in their respective and specialized fields. Toddlerese is a language of the “little people.” No, not Leprechauns. –Although, it’s easy to understand how one might make that mistake, as both Leprechauns and Toddlers exhibit a rather small stature, magical nature, impishness, and song-like speech.
Toddlerese is a strange but lovable language, that I’m convinced derived directly from the ancient city of “Babel.” Linguists would, perhaps, argue that Toddlerese is a much easier language to learn than Vietnamese or Finnish –two of the world’s most difficult languages. However, there are certain geographical nuances that exist from Toddler to Toddler that make Toddlerese a challenge in its own right. And every known language has its own sub-language of Toddlerese. Very challenging, indeed.
In some cases, Toddlerese can be identified by it’s lilting, sing-song-y quality. In that respect, it’s much like Gaelic or Celtic. However, at times, Toddlerese takes on a high-pitched, “nasal-ly” or whiny quality, which makes it very difficult to interpret. –And the degree of difficulty is directly related to the extent of a Toddler’s lack of sleep.
Here are several Toddlerese translations I’ve made so far, thanks to my 17-month old female test subject:
Da-da = daddy
Pees = please
Goo-Ger = good girl
Bee-beez = blueberries
Theee! = three (as in, “one, two, ‘theee’!!”)
Buh-buhs = bubbles
Those were fairly easy. Additionally, “Mommy” is apparently the same in English as it is in Toddlerese, as is “potty,” ”this,” “binky,” “doggy,” “ow!” “shoes,” “bye!” “cheese” and “go!” –Although, usually “go” is strung together in threes, as in “go, go go!” It’s generally used by this particular Toddler when she and the dog are being shooed out of a room they shouldn’t be in.
These next few were a bit harder to figure out.
Ga = thank you
Hee-nee = hungry (that one took me nearly a week)
Kid-dee = Chrissy (as in, “Aunt Chrissy”)
Go-wee = going (as in, “where are we going?”)
Coe-ihd = close it (as in all the doors or drawers in the house that she likes to open)
And there are a few I’m still working on. “Ah-ooh-wow,” “hoo-nee” and “pee-shah,” for example. And the list is growing. Like I said it’s a complicated and, at times, exasperating language. But it can be a heart-warming language, too, especially when you hear a Toddler’s whispered “tick-uh, tick-uh” when your fingers find their little necks or bare bellies. And my personal favorite is hearing “uh-oh!” when my tiny test subject drops something, on purpose or by accident.
What I find somewhat bittersweet is that Toddlerese is an “interim language.” After a certain age, Toddlers begin to assimilate the English language and leave their precious first language behind. It’s a right of passage, to be sure, but one I’m not ready for.
So, for now, this “Domestic Goddess” will continue interpreting and documenting her findings of this ancient and adorable language. I will relish in the mystery of it, the song-like quality and the tinkling of laughter that generally accompanies it. I am reminded daily that I have the best job in the world. Allow me to show my appreciation in Toddlerese: “Ga.”