Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sarcasm can ruin a kid's vocabulary

(First of all - Happy New Year to those of you who haven't heard that useless greeting enough already - I know, none of you)...

Over the break, I had a few interesting revelations... well... one... well... maybe not interesting, but, revealing, if nothing else...
My 4 year old asked me something about something (huh?) - I can't remember actually what it was - but it was something like "Hey Dad! " (which I'm sure he repeated 7 times before being convinced that he had my undivided attention) - "look at this thing I made! Isn't it cool?"... which I replied: "Yeah - that's great!!"
(here's the semi-interesting part...)
He said: "What does that mean?"
JR: "What does what mean?"
4yr-old: "great"
JR: "great? You know what 'great' means! ... don't you?"
4yr-old: " " (stare at daddy until he realizes that you thought you knew what it meant until now)
JR: "great - you know, 'GREAT!' - like 'That's really great!' - it means really really really super good!"
4yr-old: "Oh, yeah... 'great'!... that's great!"

Then I realized... He had heard the word 'great' lots of times... from me, and others... but in a very different context... like, when he spills milk all over the table and floor, and I say 'Oh, that's great'... or when we miss his brother's school bus, and I say 'oh great'...
You get the idea...
great = 'not so great' in the bizarro world of sarcasm where adults find minimal humor in the context of something not so great and kids who are learning their native language find confusion and reverse meanings for everyday words.
My seven year-old, on the other hand, loves sarcasm - and is likely half the source of his brother's confusion...

It might kill the effect to add "That was sarcasm - I actually mean the opposite of what I just said" to the end of every sarcastic comment I make at home - so maybe I'll just stop....


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