Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Existential Spelling Bee

Have you ever heard the old routine “Who’s on First” by Abbott and Costello? I’ve got one better. The following is an actual transcription of a conversation I had with my son Max when he was two and a half.

Let me put this in context with some background information first. At the time of our little conversation, Max was able to spell three words: Max, Mommy, and Daddy. I would write the words out on his Magna-Doodle and he would tell me what each one said.

What parent would not be proud of such an achievement in a toddler? After all, these are the days of spell-checker, texting, and instant messages on the computer. Spelling is a lost art. Punctuation, grammar, and basic rhetoric seem to be dying fast as well.

Max was well on the road to literary greatness; of this I was certain.

My perspective changed, however, when I discovered that just because you can say – and even spell – a word, that doesn’t prove that you know what it means. For Max, our conversation quickly shifted from basic spelling to a thorough treatise on his own transcendental sense of being. I was simply not expecting such a heavy conversation with a two year old.

Me: What does M-A-X spell?

Max: Spells me!

Me: No, it spells Max. M-E spells me.

Max: M-E spells you?

Me: No, Y-O-U spells you.

Max: Y-O-U spells Max?

Me: No, M-A-X spells Max. Y-O-U spells you.

Max: Y-O-U spells me?

Me: No, M-E spells me.

Max: M-E spells Daddy?

Me: No, D-A-D-D-Y spells Daddy. M-E spells me.

Max: M-E spells me?

Me: That's right!!!! M-E spells me!

Max: M-E spells Max!

Me: No, no…M-A-X spells "Max"…

And so it continued. Eventually he did sort out the differences between I, me, and you. Now he is nearly seven years old, and he has conquered more advanced linguistic challenges, like separating articles from nouns.

For example, he would say “How big will I be when I am an adult?”

What’s the issue with that, you wonder? Nothing, but it was soon followed by, “Are all an-adults as tall as you are?”

I never had the heart to correct him on this one. It was just too cute. He figured it out soon enough, anyways. Now his little brother is picking up where he left off.

4 comments:

Anita said...

We've had a similar issue with tomorrow;

When is the game?
Tomorrow.
(the next day)
Is today tomorrow?
No, today is today.
But yesterday you said today was tomorrow.
Ah, yes I did, didn't I?

Rick Daley said...

- Today is yesterday's tomorrow.
- Wherever you go, there you are.
- Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

Have a great weekend! I hope you reached your goal with your manuscript and you're back on THE ROAD again.

Sharon said...

Just too funny!! I can picture the entire conversation going on and on and on....

Rick Daley said...

I Vic did something similar once, too, but it didn't last as long.

We have a dinner time ritual now. We don't pray before a meal, but we all hold hands and each of us says something we are thankful for. Usually it's "I'm glad it's the weekend" or "I had fun at at school"

Lats night before our spaghetti dinner Vic started us off and said, very quickly, "I'm glad Alaina and Andrew came over to play and I like sausage."

Of course, there were meatballs and Italian sausage on his plate, but the sudden leap from topic A to topic b made us all laugh!