The Infant Phenomenon

Language was not powerful enough to describe the infant phenomenon. “I’ll tell you what, sir,” he said; “the talent of this child is not to be imagined. She must be seen, sir—seen—to be ever so faintly appreciated.”

(Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 23)

Since he was very small, Eoin has been trying to talk. This is hardly surprising: he has 50% Lorna-DNA, and I’m not exactly known for being taciturn. The fact that he didn’t have the right level of physical development wasn’t going to stop him: we have a film of him at about 2 months, in which he is desperately trying to copy his dad saying “hello”. OK, it’s mainly vowel-y vocalizations, but a parent appreciates the effort.

He hasn’t managed to produce a coherent word yet. Or at least, that’s what I thought. It may be that he’s just far too advanced for me: he could be a specialist in esoteric and invented languages. You remember the episode of Friends where Rachel’s baby’s first word is “gleba“? Well, if a fictional baby can use complex scientific jargon, my baby can experiment with language isolates. Over the last few days, he has been saying “yaya” a lot: at first, I though this was just meaningless babbling, but then I realised this is clearly his attempt to say “nearly, nearly” (“ia, ia”) in Basque, thereby indicating that he’s nearly ready to say more. Of course! What else could it be? He has also been happily shouting “Ada!” at my husband. As any good Tolkien scholar knows, this is the Quenya word for “father”: the bright little chap is not only greeting his daddy, but also recognising said father’s fondness for The Lord of the Rings. We clearly have a veritable Infant Phenomenon on our hands.

I know what you’re thinking: that the I.P. in Dickens is a tremendous fake, pickled in gin. But you just let me believe what I want to believe, ok? I’m really not getting a lot of sleep at the moment. And, after all, who’s to say he hasn’t been taking a sneaky glance at a Basque dictionary or a Tolkien glossary? Perhaps tomorrow he’ll manage “Arratsalde on”, or “Namárië”.

I’d settle for “Mama”, though. Please talk soon, little man.

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6 thoughts on “The Infant Phenomenon

  1. I love when I have to look up words from your posts !!! 🙂 No, seriously, having some linguistic knowledge, I very much appreciate references to languages of obscure origin or constructed languages. Keeping my fingers crossed for Eoin to enter the one-word and then two-word stage very soon! A cwtch from Wuppertal!

    • Admittedly, I had to look up the Basque! I knew what the words sounded like, but not how they were spelled… How was the shortbread?

  2. Pingback: Verbal | Biographia Domestica

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