I love language. I think words are fascinating – how they are formed, how they can hold multiple meanings, even the sounds they form.
Which is why I love watching my 14 month old niece learn to speak. The words she has accumulated are hers. When she speaks, her words hold so much meaning. Her pronunciation reveals why she has learned the word.
Her first word is one of her absolute favorite things: “baby.” Pretty much anyone under the age of 6 is “baby.” Her reflection in a mirror or pictures of her on my phone are “baby.” The several dolls she has are “baby.”
She loves her “mama” and “dada.” You can hear it when she speaks. When she says “mama,” it’s so full of love, and “dada” is said with utter joy and excitement.
Fruit falls under one name, apple, which she amazingly pronounces as “app.” Steve Jobs would be thrilled.
When she’s sleepy and her parents aren’t home yet and all she wants is her mom to tuck her in, she cuddles up in my arms and cries with such sorrow and pleads, “bees mama, bees mama.” (Please mama.)
And if you ask her, “Are you happy?”, she’ll reward you with a smile that could break her face and the reply, “app-ee,” spoken with such contentment that I am in awe of pure happiness.
And suddenly, I have never been so desperate as to have a name. Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” A name holds power. Ownership. Realization. Meaning. Purpose. I want my niece to name me.
I am absolutely fascinated by her development.