Our child is 18 months now, and making small but significant inroads into bilingualism. It’s been painfully obvious that her speech will be influenced by the shortcomings of our own, ever since she said her first English word, “yeahyeahyeah”. She already had a few Swedish words under her belt by then, but any pride I felt at her first English utterance was swiftly overwhelmed by disappointment in my capacity as a teacher, and the frankly crappy standard of my own spoken language.
A new child also has an impact of the language of the parents. How could it not, when in the blink of an eye you go from a lifestyle of infrequent meetings with infants (< once a week) to one where you sometimes can’t remember what it’s like to talk to an adult. Usually, while you’re trying to talk that other other adult, and worrying that you’ll never complete a coherent sentence again.
There was a lot of joy to be had in coming up with nicknames for the baby, a compulsion that thankfully has tailed off now. Some of them have stuck, most faded after a few days. All were terrible, but for some reason, in the moment, they either felt like the most beautiful encapsulation of our child’s essential being, or I thought they were a creation of elegant wit worthy of Wilde.
At no time was this correct. In the interests of self-mortification, here are some of the worst offenders.
Bougie Nou. I’m leading with the worst of the bunch. Thank Christ that no-one’s ever heard me utter this one in public. (What? Oh.) Pure infantilised babble. In the classic form, “who’s a little bougie? You are, you’re a little bougie nou“. On sober reflection I realise that no-one is, has been, or ever will be, a bougie nou.
Sötnis Everdeen. Sötis (being Swedish for “sweetie”) was once fumbled into Sötnis, and I must have thought that the easy jump to Sötnis Everdeen would somehow imbue our child with gung-ho ass-kicking empowered-female heroism. While I momentarily felt this was the apex of my baby nicknaming creative burst, it was too elaborate and didn’t last.
Belly Boo. Her first name was a natural to fancy up with an added -Belle, as in (Blahblah-)Belle. Hence also just Belly, and Belly Boo. Obviously –oo is my go-to end sound. Took me a while to spot the similarity to Betty Boo.
Head of Special Projects Department. This one’s self-explanatory?
I’m not asking for your approval here. Understanding, maybe a little pity will suffice. But that’s how it goes, spend long enough hanging out with an infant all day every day and you end up finding the common ground of meaningless noises that appeal to you both.
Now I’m going to go and talk to an insurer or someone, see if I can recalibrate my brain a bit, a nudge back in the direction of good old fashioned boring adult conversation. “Naming additional insureds on a professional indemnity policy”, anyone?