“We need to buy more carrots at the Embassy,” Munchkin exclaimed after fishing the last of the thinly shredded orange vegetables out of S’s salad bowl, tilting his head back, and swallowing them with relish. Wrong venue, but how many two-and-a-half-year-olds have the word “embassy” in their vocabulary?
Now that our little man has become a big chatterbox, we have come to the realization (somewhat belatedly) that we should keep track of the funny things he says. For years, D’s mom would recall how he said, “tim-pam-pura” for температура (“temperature” in Russian), and even found an old piece of notepaper recently with scribbles of D’s amusing early expressions, which she scanned and emailed to us. The one word S recalls mispronouncing is “yellow,” which she called “well-oh” for the longest time, but she’s sure her mom kept at least a mental list as well.
This exercise is not entirely fair to Munchkin because he is simultaneously learning two languages at once. He butchers pretty much all new Russian words, and even after repeating them many times takes ages to incorporate new Russian vocabulary. By contrast, he is much more adept at English, and frequently surprises us with new words we had no idea he had absorbed.
“Oh shit!” he squealed one morning after dropping one of his Lego cars, “Oh shit!” he repeated, producing a fair imitation of S’s favorite expression of exasperation both in voice and facial features. He was bound to pick that one up sooner or later. “Hold on a second, let me get it,” he replied when asked about the toy zebra for which we had looked in vain, surprising us both with the complexity of his sentence construction and the zebra’s hiding place inside one of our rolling suitcases.
One of the great things about the six months Munchkin spent in daycare was that he learned a ton of songs, with which he now regales us multiple times a day. Not only does he sing himself to sleep, but he also improvises, intermingling songs or simply making up new lyrics while keeping the same tune. “The bananas on the bus go ‘open and shut,” for example, which he followed with “The dinos on the bus go ‘dino, dino, dino.’” The latter is a testament to his recently acquired fascination with dinosaurs, which has culminated in his oft repeated and rather cryptic expression, “He has a dino on.”
Not infrequently Munchkin will reinterpret our words, substituting whole phrases that have remarkable internal logic even if they are completely out of context with regards to the conversation at hand. When D brought home a carved wooden figurine of a hunter, for example, Munchkin asked to see it. S told him that the man hunted animals for food. “He eating meat,” Munchkin said. “Yes,” S affirmed, “see his spear? He is hunting animals.” – “He is honking the ambulance,” Munchkin replied.
Some words in Munchkin’s vocabulary have experienced an evolution, going through several mispronunciations. He used to say “com-poo-ee” for “computer,” for instance, but now he calls it “pi-qui-you,” which is actually a bit farther off the mark than his original attempt. Similarly, he has gone through a handful of variations on “elephant,” both in English and Russian.
Our favorite new word of his is “moogies.” Munchkin had fallen in love with S’s childhood toy guitar when we visited her parents in Maine, so S’s mom mailed it to us to encourage his love of music to grow. As a result, every evening Munchkin bangs on the guitar’s multi-colored buttons while commanding us, “Mama dance, papa dance! I wanna play moogies.”