Words only carry the meaning given by the immediate speaker. This concept is part of our post-modern heritage, and makes conversation nigh on impossible for anyone taking this truth to heart. For instance, I can say, "I love my husband" but, if my definition of husband is different than yours we can not truly communicate since we are essentially speaking different languages. Our home is full of this peculiar style of conversation - one person saying something quite plain while the rest of our family stands utterly perplexed. I had no idea it was rooted in our society's continuing disconnect with absolute truth, but I see now how intimately the two are related. I first noticed it when I was a nanny in the early years of my marriage. Amanda, the 2 year old I cared for, clearly asked for, "deerie-oos."
You want deerie-oos?
We played the dance for several hysterical moments before I finally grasped the meaning she assigned to this word, "You mean cheerios?"
Amanda let out an exasperated sigh, "Deerie-oos." The nearly audible "duh" punctuated the word.
Fast-forward to our own 2 year old, Hannah, when she began asserting her likes, and dislikes: Dip.
You don't want this?
I took a stab in the dark, "You mean nope?" She nodded emphatically with that same piecing look Amanda held years earlier. The one that says, "How many times do we need to go over it?"
We were soon in the throws of another 2 year old (apparently 2 is the age generally accepted for assigning new meaning to words, and expecting the world to conform without any explanation). Bethany was given to tummy aches, which seemed to correlate almost exactly with bedtime. Each evening, within 10 minutes of being tucked in tight, she would meander out to the living room and explain that her tummy hooted. After a week of this we asked her what would make her feel better.
A spot? What's a spot?
At this she pointed to the cupboard and emphatically restated the obvious, "a spot." So I lifted her up to the cupboard, that she might show me this alchemist's dream of tummy settlers, when she pulled from the shelf the bottle of Tums Antacid tablets.
You want one of these?
She nodded her head vigorously, and then held the tablet in her little hand and restated its true name, "spot."
And so the list continues until a couple nights ago our current 2 year old exclaimed from the backseat of the van, "Aleese gahvey-gup!"
I have no idea what you are saying, Mary.
I wanna hear Aleese gavey-gup!
We listen to Christmas music in our vehicles from the weekend proceeding Thanksgiving until Christmas. We own several great cds, one of them being Time Life's A Treasury of Christmas. It has all the classics, both new and old. Our whole family gets giddy when we prepare to take it out for the season. I began skipping through the songs until at last Mary laughed in delight that, "Aleese Gahvey-gup" was playing. I was apparently pronouncing it wrong all these years when I called it, Feliz Navidad.
We are now faced with a difficult situation. If we want true communication our society tells us we must agree on the definitions of the words we use. I used to believe chips went into dip. A spot was a small circular drop or stain of a substance different from the surrounding material. Deerie-oos and Aleese Gahvey-gup were gibberish. However, if I continue in those truths I will be unable to participate in conversation with my children. This is obviously unacceptable. And so our home has plunged into relativity, ignoring the standards set by absolute truth and embracing with abandon the definitions set forth by the speaker.