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Concept of the month June 2019: THIS IS, THIS NOT

Let’s have porridge! We want our boys (5 and 3) to have a breakfast without bread every now and then. Both need a little extra motivation for this. The youngest insists: “This not”. I say: “Yes, ‘tis.”. The eldest: “This is”, and his brother: “This not”. Unless anyone stops them, this continues for a few minutes. Weekdays or weekends. I love it.

Reading back my blogs, I see there are regular mentions of our eldest son, but hardly any of our youngest. So this one is about him. He is different because he isn’t different. That makes him an enrichment to me, perhaps even more so because of the enrichment his brother is. There I go again. Our youngest looks a bit like me when it comes to his face, strong emotions and chattiness.

Before losing myself in fatherly sentiment, as a linguist I would like to look into his choice of words. I find it fascinating how he interprets certain typical colloquial speech and turns it around, creating expressions that sometimes are actually simpler and more understandable.

Like this one: “‘tis” and “‘tisn’t”. Among grown-ups, there is even a ‘game’ referring to these, superciliously calling this ‘childlike behaviour’. What our 3 year-old seems to hear is “This not” and “This is”. This makes perfect sense. As does the ensuing word tennis around the basic word ‘This’. And it takes us back to a translatable vocabulary. Isn’t any word translatable? Or is it? This not. This is.

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Pepijn de Boer MA

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