Ian’s New Words

My son has now invented three signs for his sign language: “car”, “brush teeth”, and “Yo Gabba Gabba”.

“car”: move the hand across the body like you’re driving a car across the terrain of your chest and stomach.

Why? I can’t say for sure, but I can recall one moment where I was giving Ian a snack on a Saturday afternoon. To keep him entertained (and in his chair), I grabbed some cars from the living room. These were little, plastic, mildly¬†anthropomorphic¬†cars that were the perfect size driving across the table top. What predicated the use of small autos was that his placemat was a racetrack. I’d drive the cars along the racetrack, making typical car noises. There was this delightful moment where I made my car jump onto his arm and travel up toward his head where it drive up the back of his head, across the crown, and leapt back to the table. He thought that was fantastic, and since then he’s made use of the “vroom vroom” sound when playing with his cars. He would even drive the cars across his stomach, making the noise. From there it was a small step to using his hand instead of a car to communicate the idea of a car in conversation.

“brush teeth”: open mouth and grab or scrape the tongue with your hand.

Why? Well, the gesture is somewhat obvious. People do more brushing of the teeth than of the tongue, but Ian mostly just chews on his toothbrush. For however long it lasts, Ian has a great love of teeth brushing. He doesn’t do a great job, but it’s at least developing a habit and making it part of his night routine. He usually just sticks the brush in his mouth and toddles around the bathroom looking in cupboards and drawers, but I like to pretend he’s making dental progress.

“Yo Gabba Gabba”: wave both arms in the air, at head height.

Why? This one probably stems from the overwhelming excitement and enjoyment the show brings him. From some of his earliest viewings, he would wave his arms in this motion simply from the emotion of seeing the show’s opening credits. It might also stem from the use of that gesture within the show as a “dance move”, dancing and music being a mainstay of the programming and a particular delight to Ian.

It’s fascinating how language finds a way. Adding to a language implies a comfort and ease with said language. He must feel that his sign language is communicative enough that he can expand it, and as he needs new words to communicate his ideas, he just uses what feels natural. It’s changing the way I feel about my own languages. Who’s to say that English has enough words for the ideas I need to communicate? Is it any surprise that writers with anecdotally large vocabularies are also prolific coiners of new words? Shakespeare and Carroll come to mind as masters of the language who saw fit to paint their own portraits to add to the gallery.

And now my son joins their ranks.

Proud Dad.

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