From the Mommy Files…

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy!

Posted on: May 24, 2010

You’re wondering, where the heck is she going with this? 😉

Ah yes, I’m talking about the hit song by Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze,” of which the misunderstanding of the lyrics, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky,” is probably more famous than the actual song. I bring up this dictional distortion (I think I made that up, but it sounds good – wink, wink) to tell you about some things that my kids say. You always hear, “kids say the darndest things,” but is it really that the way they said it is the way it sounds to them, and that they don’t know what they are saying?

Let me explain.

I’ve mentioned that in our quest to proliferate our culture, we are teaching our children to speak Greek as well as English. BooBoo even goes to a Greek/English preschool. Occasionally, they say things in Greek that don’t make any sense at all – and sometimes sound like a curse word or something that a young child should not be saying. I mentioned this once to BooBoo’s teacher and she said it happens all the time, and that sometimes the teachers can barely hold contain the laughter.

One day, BooBoo began to tell me a story, and then it sounded like she said the Greek word for testicles. I tried not to freak out, so she wouldn’t repeat it and think it was funny. I asked her where she’d learned it, and she said at school. I asked her teacher about it and she said that she has heard what sounds like that word as well, but she said the kids have no idea what the word is or what it means.

BooBoo learns songs at school, and sometimes I can’t understand her. I speak Greek, but she doesn’t pronounce all the words correctly. I found out that other parents face this issue too. We asked the teacher for the song lyrics so we knew what they were singing!

Bebs is becoming a chatterbox in her own right, and listening to her speak, this is all starting to make sense. I’ve concluded that it definitely may be the way they hear the words – the sounds – and that’s how they duplicate them. For example, she will say ‘I love you’ in Greek, “s’agapo,” but it sounds like, “dagado,” with all the right inflection and rhythm. I know she understands the word. I also know that some sounds are more difficult than others, and they come later.

Recently, BooBoo was singing a song from her favorite Greek singer Elli Kokkinou; her words made no sense. One line says, phonetically in Greek, “monaha ‘si na eheis simasia,” which means roughly, “only you will have significance.” BooBoo sang, “Anastassia ehei simasia.” So in her version, some girl named Anastassia is number one. She went on, and well, I had trouble holding back the laughter. The song says in Greek, “To yelyio, to dakri, to alati mes’ti zoi,” meaning, “the laughter, the tears, the salt of life.” BooBoo sang, “To yellow, to dakri, agape mes mou zoi,” which means, “the yellow, the tears, love in my life.”

‘Scuse me me while I kiss this guy!

An article by Caroline Brown on speech development, explains that “a small, typically developing child’s speech can be quite difficult to understand because his or her sound system is not yet organised like adult speech.” She indicates that when kids are learning to speak like adults, all kids make errors in pronunciation – which are not really errors. She refers to the “errors” as phonological processes or phonological derivations.

In another report, she states that “children’s speech does not sound like adult speech because they make typical child-like ‘sound replacements’.” Also, all kids occasionally misunderstand words that are said to them, and therefore “utter oddly worded sentences, and put speech sounds in the wrong spots (or omit them) when they are learning to talk.”

In terms of bilingual study, an article in Preschoolers Today says researchers believe that the best time to teach a child a foreign language is when they are young. I agree with their conclusion that there are enormous benefits to speaking more than one language. They say it broadens  “a child’s understanding and acceptance of other cultures,” “improves English comprehension skills” and “research suggests that learning a second language at an early age can enrich mental development.”

So, for a little while longer, we’ll hear Bebs say “die!” when she’s waving goodbye to you and BooBoo will keep singing about Anastassia. We’ll continue to positively correct them and reinforce their learning. And explain to people what they are trying to say. 😉

It’s not just the kids…have a laugh and check out or for more misunderstood lyrics…There’s even a name for it – mondegreens. I’m cracking up at, “there’s a bathroom on the right!”


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