Conversations with Cutie

For those of you who are keeping track, my youngest son is just a little more than two years old now. And far all ages have been good ages with my sons (so far) this is a particularly special age for me. It’s the age of language acquisition.

He’s a good talker, and has been using full sentences for a couple months now. But listening to him is still a bit of an acquired skill, because…. well… he’s still a baby, so all of his words don’t quite sound right.

By the way (Pat said, managing to tangent away from his primary purpose in the blog in a record-breaking two paragraphs) did you know that the reason it takes kids so long to talk isn’t primarily mental? A huge portion of it is actually physical. They lack the physical control required to make the proper sounds with their mouths.

It makes sense when you think about it. Learning how to pick up a pencil is hard, but learning to whistle is *way* harder. Learning how to accurately and consistently recreate the 42-46 phonemes that comprise American English…. well… it’s easy to forget how hard it is until you see a kid struggling with the process.

Think about it, your lips, tongue, jaw, and vocal cords all have to orchestrate things together *very* precisely just to make just *one* phoneme. Like an “Mmmmm” sound. And each phoneme has many variations.

Then realize that even a simple word like “more” has *three* of those phonemes. And all of those need to be pulled off correctly, together, in about a tenth of a second.

And that’s just for one word.

This is why a lot of parents do sign language with their young kids. Kids can understand you much younger than they can talk (Most folks who have studied a foreign language know the same feeling: being able to understand a question in your new language, but not answer it.) Babies can think in words much earlier than they can *say* most words, which means they can communicate with you much sooner than you think if you teach them a few gestures.


(Don’t look so smug, little man. That’s a pretty sloppy “more.”)

The reason parents understand their kids better than anyone else is because we’re more experienced with our own children’s  particular accent and dialect. And even then, *we’re* clueless some times as to what the kids are saying.

This is why parents constantly repeat what kids say back to them. Partially we do this so children can hear a clearer version of what they’re saying, which helps them improve their pronunciation. But it’s also because we’re double checking what we think they’re saying. (And honestly, I’m guessing there’s some straight-up biological imperative mixed in there, too.)

Anyway, all of this is preamble and context so I can share a conversation I had with Cutie the other day.

Cutie: Daddy Faat es laou!

Me: Daddy’s fart is loud?

Cutie nods: Es yike ayafat.

I’m clueless here, so I look to Sarah.

Sarah: It’s like an elephant?

Cutie nods again: Daddy’s faat es yike a yion wohr!

Me: Daddy’s fart is like a lion?

Cutie: Wohr!

Me: It’s like a lion’s roar?

Cutie nods again.

So… yeah. Now you know. Even if you didn’t want to know, you still know. And you can’t unknow it.

Sorry about that.


P.S. In case you were wondering, having kids is pretty great.

This entry was posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, day in the life, things I shouldn't talk about. By Pat24 Responses


  1. Aiwendil
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 12:37 AM | Permalink

    I’m profoundly Deaf, and I can proudly tell you that I was telling my parents off in sign language much earlier than my hearing siblings did. ‘More’ is a very important sign! ;)

  2. justajenjen
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:08 AM | Permalink

    Oh yeah, language development in kids is awesome to see as a parent. And really fustrating at times. My son, Monkey, is 6. He has language delays and he also speaks and understands English and French. Everyday is a language adventure. He mixes the two languages up, and sometimes throws in the Spanish he picked up from Dora the Explorer. And with his language delays, he makes up his own words for things when he can’t find the right word in English or French or it’s just too hard for him to form. You never know which word will pop out of his mouth next and it can be very difficult sometimes to understand what he wants. “Can you show me,” is something said a lot at our house.

    However, he is able to recognize which language to use with which person. Mommy and Papa will understand eathier, but he will normally speak English to me and French to Papa. If we call Grammie and Gramp back in the US, he’ll speak English and knows that Popy (my husband’s father who lives here in France) only speaks French. He has to speak French at school, except when it’s time for English lessons, which he loves, because he already knows everything. Then he goes around and accosts elderly people who think he’s cute and announces, “Je parle anglais! Ecoutez-moi!” Then he’ll rattle off some numbers, or the alphabet, or a little song in English, earning praise from his audience. But Mommy ruins everything by announcing, “Mais oui, Monkey, tu es americain.” “Et francais, aussi, Mommy,” he reminds me.

  3. LizisSparta
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:14 AM | Permalink

    A couple years back I was working on my Master in German and English literature, and the linguistics studies that came with it were really hard. Believe me, talking about talking is a lot more difficult than just talking – if you get my meaning ???? All those phonemes and morphemes and tree diagrams – I am really glad I’m finished with those. Though it was interesting, I quite prefered actual books with stories in them ????
    And thanks for letting us know about your farts, we appreciate it.

  4. Kelsey S.
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

    Already speaking in similes! You can tell he’s a writer’s son. ;)

  5. tinachicka
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:38 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat,

    You might want to check the filename of Cutie.

    I love these posts!

    • Zanzith
      Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

      Loved the post aswell, they are cute :3

      And yes, Pat, you should change the filename with the pic of Cutie.

      You seem like an awesome family man, keep it up!

  6. lpguerrero
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:44 AM | Permalink

    I really liked your post as a speech pathologist and having kids is really great the way they learn how to speak… it´s incredible the way the understand but speaking becomes so difficult… I really enjoy when people realize those little things!!!

  7. Eleanor
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat!
    I was just wondering, in your podcast you talked about Sarah reading lots of books on children so I thought that if she wanted to she could recommend her favorite ones.
    Love your work and your blog!

  8. ztemhead1
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 7:47 AM | Permalink

    Yes, there was a time between 9 and 14 months where baby Beren was visibly frustrated with his inability to communicate. When baby Corwin comes along (expected publication date 21 April) we are going to teach him baby signs. (confirmed that I have the best wife in the world who lets me name our spawn after foundational characters of modern fantasy)

    Interestingly, B has never embraced third person like babies do. Last night he said clear as day, “I farted” following a gas expulsion at the dinner table.

  9. Jaime
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

    “Learning how to accurately and consistently recreate the 42-46 phonemes that comprise American English…. well… it’s easy to forget how hard it is until you see a kid struggling with the process.”

    Even more fun is when you’re mildly hearing-impaired and you can’t hear the sounds well enough to reproduce them accurately. They thought I had a speech impediment when I was a kid; turns out it was due to my hearing and a fairly isolated upbringing where I didn’t speak a lot to others besdies my mom. It cleared up once I started going to school. I can read German very well (and can understand a great deal of other western European languages when they’re in writing), but not only do I have a hard time understanding it when it’s spoken, I’ve been told that when *I* speak German, my accent sounds more Slavic than American. I make a conscious effort to use the correct sounds with CH, umlauts, etc., but because my brain isn’t getting about 15% of the information it needs, my accent is abominable.

  10. Posted February 10, 2016 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    My little one is starting to talk pretty well now too! It is interesting for sure. We are holding our breath to hear her “R” sound. She seems to say door fine but that’s her only real word with the sound. My husband couldn’t say his R right until he was 16 or so. His mother and grandfather had the same problem, weird hereditary trait I guess. Unfortunately for my husband he has three R’s in his name, we made sure to avoid any in our little ones first name as according to him, it was awful growing up with a name you can’t properly say.

  11. mxg312
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    Love your posts on parenting. I have 6 yr old and 1.5 yr old daughters, so these always hit close to home!

  12. howard
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    lol Reminds me of some lines in Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Just googled the quote now:

    “Is elephant gas great? Is it great in the pain that it causes the elephant? Or in the relief it affords when expressed? Or perhaps it is only great if it is ignited on farting and the resulting explosion is used to power a turbine? Is an elephant fart great in and of itself? Or only in its effect?”

  13. shawnrsmith
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    My son is just a little over two years old as well. We have been teaching him some Star Wars names, including Darth Vader. However, he pronounces it diarrhea.

  14. trousertroll
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

    “That’s right. Daddy’s fart is like a lion’s roar, and now his underpants are like a red and brown Jackson Pollock painting. Go fetch my blood rag, boy!”

  15. Posted February 10, 2016 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    My fave thing about children is making my husband interact with them. He didn’t grow up around children really, other than being a child himself at some point. Me on the other hand, my mother is the oldest of 12 children, so I grew up watching and babysitting my little cousins.

    I always love watching children interact with my husband, as he doesn’t have any of those built in qualities most of us have, you know, baby talk, tickling them, making funny faces… Instead he treats them like they are wild animals. Try to stay away from them and watch from afar. Some how kids can sense he has an aversion to them, and naturally, they want him to pick them up and play. I love it.

    And he just talks to them like adults, while trying to keep them from drooling on him. And they try to touch every part of him with there dirty lil fingers… I love me awkward hubby.

  16. SporkTastic
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 9:21 PM | Permalink

    I feel like “Farts Like a Lion’s Roar” should be a CAH card.

  17. Posted February 11, 2016 at 1:16 AM | Permalink

    My daughters (7 & 1.5), started out in Ireland, but since I’m from Los Angeles, and my wife is Russian, the older one has basically an l.a. accent, which is statistically a non-accented American english one. My wife’s accent is hard to place. Most people from the states think its British, but in Ireland, they thought she was from the states. Its not your average thick Russian accent.

    But now, we’re living in Barcelona, where the schools are taught in Catalan, the people mostly speak Spanish, and my wife has been making a real effort to only speak Russian to the girls and to show them russian cartoons.

    So, the baby is starting to talk, but her sounds are all over the place. Russian words, spanish ones, catalan ones, and NO English. Well, except for Papa, but that’s russian too.

    Its adorable and hopefully this sort of upbringing will really help them out in their beautiful lives ahead. And yes, kids are great, having kids is great.

  18. F.N.T.
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 5:29 AM | Permalink

    This almost makes me feel better about finally giving in to my wife’s demands to try for a third kid. Almost.

    Anyway, slightly off beam but it reminded me of when of my favourite moments when my son was about the same age: I woke up, nipped to the bathroom, and while I was… abluting, let out a loud (possibly even lion’s-roar) fart. My son, still in his bed in the next room, shouts out “Mummy!”

    Yes, kids are awesome.

  19. Jsherry
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 9:19 AM | Permalink

    I feel like I just read the Foreword to an upcoming sequel “Everyone Poops (even Celebrities).”

  20. Auri Rodrigues
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 7:34 PM | Permalink

    It’s good to hear that you are living a happy life with your loved ones.
    I wish you the best ‘bests’ always!

  21. Posted February 12, 2016 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    My wife and I occasionally reminisce about how our (now 17 year old) son use to say ‘eteh-teh-teh’ for elephant and ‘heh-teh-teh-teh’ for helicopter. (He’s not too happy when we discuss this publicly for some reason.)

    I’m also making a note not to bring grandma’s bean dip if we ever cross paths at some event – unless we want to hear the lion roar. ;)

  22. Posted February 12, 2016 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

    @justajenjen we had some concern about teaching our son English and Spanish when he was young, but we read a study suggesting that while this slowed down language acquisition a little bit at the onset, it eventually paid off in big ways. I think teaching multiple languages, including sign language and other visual or verbal methods of communication at an early age make a lot of sense. The brain is extremely plastic at that age and adding a lot of synapses/building neural pathways like crazy. Later in life this slows, and in fact some pruning begins, but I’m a fan of laying down as much mental roadway as you can early on.

  23. AsimpleReader
    Posted February 14, 2016 at 8:54 PM | Permalink

    I just now realized Cutie just “named” the wind.

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