Linguist, lexicographer, writer, editor, broadcaster

Long boy update

The boy turns one year old next week! Lots has changed in a year—he walks and talks, for example—and lots hasn’t—he’s still as loud as a truck and tractor pull.

The baby voice is disappearing and the little piping boy voice is becoming more common. He’s been talking since a little after the ten-month mark, which is great, because it gives us insights into what’s happening in that little head of his. Basically, he’s nuts.


Here’s his vocabulary as best as we can tell.

Words Guthrie Says

Mama—He loves his mama. 🙂 If you ask him, “What does the baby say?” he’ll say, “Mama.” He’s also been known to bang on doors and shout “Mama!” when she’s in the shower.

Papa—This first came out like “appa,” then “abba,” and now it’s more like “baba,” which is easily confused with “bye-bye” except he says this word in a normal tone of voice.

bye-bye—This one he still says in a much lower voice than all the other words. We think it’s because Papa says it the most when he leaves for work (or just goes to the home office, which is still a bye-bye situation as far as the boy is concerned). Papa has a low voice, so the boy uses a low voice, too. At first he was waving bye-bye to everyone and everything, but now he pretty much only says the word and does the wave when someone is leaving the room or apartment or even just putting on a coat.

banana—Comes out like “nana” usually, though more and more it’s like “mnana.” When he is sitting in his high chair he likes to shout this nonstop at the top of his lungs and point emphatically at the fruit bowl. The boy has preferences.

no—Oh, yes, that favorite toddler word has made an appearance, with a special twist. The babysitter says it in a kind of sing-song “NO no NO no” way and wags her finger, so that’s what he does, too. He says it all the time. He’ll walk around, looking at the stuff he’s not supposed to touch, and go “NO no NO no” and wag his little finger at it. It’s hard not to laugh. He’ll also tell Papa “no” if Papa asks for a smooch! (See more about that below).

sock and socks—Rendered as “sah” and “oxth.” He likes to chew on socks. It’s hereditary, but I’m not saying from which side of the family.

box—He’s a big fan of boxes. Drag them around, sit in them, carry them around, put stuff in them, take stuff out, bang on them, scratch on them.

book—Not only can he say the word book and knows what it means, but if you recite lines from some of the books that he’s had the longest, he will go dig through his stuff until he finds that exact book and then he’ll bring it to you. We know it’s the kind of thing that all kids learn to do but it’s still pretty cool. That’s been going on for months, even before he could walk—he would crawl, like a three-legged dog trying to chase rabbits, as he struggled with the book.

this and that—These showed up a few weeks after the finger-pointing did. He points at everything and says “Dis? Dat?” and we dutifully name everything in sight, touching or pointing at the things we’re talking about. I’d like to think it helps the vocabulary, but who knows?

block—He’s learned that his wooden and cardboard blocks and the ones in the books are alike.

cat—We don’t have one, but there’s one on the rocket ship (our name for the exercise saucer thingy) with an electronic voice that goes “meow,” then says “cat” and “gato.” Plus, all the books have cats in them and the computer screensaver in the living room often has cat pictures come up. He also used to love Papa’s impression of a cat’s meow. He’ll answer with a “mmmoo” sound if you ask him, “What does the cat say?” It’s his version of “meow.”

more—After Papa taught him how to do a hug, Mama taught him the word “more” so he could ask for more books. (He loves his books—over and over, though he grows impatient after a while and is happy to get new ones.) She also taught him the American Sign Language gesture for it too. This one’s only a week or so old, so we’re not sure if it’s going to stick.

duck—He has rubber ducks that he likes to chew on. Sounds like “dot” when he says it.

bop—Multipurpose word. “Bop” probably comes from the book Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop, which is a favorite of his. Like all babies, he has lots of B sounding nonsense syllables. Papa thinks it sounds like he’s saying “Benazir Bhutto bikes to Bujumburu to bring the boot budget.”

Words He Understands But Doesn’t Say

These are only the ones we’re sure of but there are clearly many more because he seems to get what we’re saying and act accordingly.

back in one minute—This is one of the things he’s understood for a long time. When Guthrie was much younger, Mama was in the habit of saying “I’ll be back in one minute” and holding up her index finger when she would leave the room and Guthrie was in the play yard or was playing with Papa. So Guthrie figured out that the finger meant that someone was going to leave the room. So he started spontaneously putting up his finger to mean “I want to go…” or “Are we going…” wherever it was he had in mind. So, if you say, “do you want to go to the living room?” he’ll put up his index finger and raise his eyebrows. In the morning he’ll sometimes sit up in the bed and put up the finger and the eyebrows, counting on us to understand that he means he’s ready to get up, get his diaper changed, and get dressed. Smart little bugger. Now we can just say “I’ll be back in a minute” and the crying stops almost immediately.

smooch, kiss, and hug—If you say, “Can I have a smooch?” (or “kiss”) he’ll pucker up his little lips like a monkey and thrust his head at you. Except for his Papa! He almost always says “no” then. He will, however, give his Papa a hug when asked. He throws out his arms and then presses his little self up against you for a pretty good mood-booster.

five—If you say just “five” or the full “Give me five” he’ll hold out his hand and hit yours or wait for his to be hit.

bath—He loves his baths. If you say, “bath?” he’ll go to the door to the bathroom or look or move in that direction.

kitchen—Same for this: if you say the word, he’ll usually go to the right door and bang on it or try to open it.

clap—If you say “clap” or “clapping,” he claps. He’ll also clap at the end of books or songs or when his babysitter comes over. He also likes to take your hands and clap them together for you.

stomp—If you say “stomp!” he’ll bang his hands on the floor in imitation of some of the animals in his books, like the rhino and the bear.

cow—If you ask him, “What does the cow say?” he answers with a “moooo.”

dog—If you ask him, “What does the dog say?” he answers with “marf” or “arf.” He learned that from our friend Margaret. The other day we were on the subway going to a dinner for Margaret, who just moved to DC, and he started going “arf arf.” Behind us, where only he could see it, was a big picture of a dog. He does it for dogs on the computer screensaver, too, and for dogs in books. Neat!

bear—He knows it refers to the bears in the books as well as to the teddy bears he has.

belly button—If you ask him “Where’s Mama’s belly button?” he points to it and says something like “be ba.”

wave—He’ll do it if you say it.

buzz—If you say it or do it, he’ll do it too. We have a little game that when someone points with a finger, someone else touches it with their finger and goes “bzzzzzzzzzzzz!” He also knows that bees buzz.

nose—He can find Mama’s nose.

tongue—He’ll show you his tongue if you ask about it.

dance and dancing—If you say it, he’ll do it. We like to get goofy and dance around with the boy, singing a silly song about dancing in the living room, or dancing in the kitchen, dancing wherever we are.

get you—If Papa says “I’m going to get you!” Guthrie delivers a coy little mock frightened grin and then runs for cover on his mama’s legs or under the table or face-down on the couch. He loves being chased around the furniture.

keys—It’s a word that means keys, there’s no question, but it doesn’t sound much like it.

shhh—This has no meaning, really, yet, unfortunately, but if you say “shhh!” and put your finger on your lips, so will he.

And now we close with pictures.

Boy tries out his new rocking chair from Grammy and Pop.

The box! What a wonderful invention!

The boy loves piggyback rides.

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Grant Barrett