The Perils Of Baby Talk

Long before I became a wife and a mother, I used to find it amusing when everyday objects like egg became “eggy” and the traffic lights became a “flash flash” while talking to infants.

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But surprisingly when my own children were small, I too resorted to this baby talk and began asking my children if they wanted to do “neenee” when they rubbed their eyes sleepily and if they wanted “mumum” when it was time for them to eat.

And we climbed the “magic steps” when we used escalators and they loved watching the ‘magic doors’ open for them . Like everything else, babies out grow baby talk and things are referred to by their given names and baby talk becomes a thing of the past. Obviously this skill is not lost in memory but remains in the subconscious only to surface effortlessly for conversations with grandchildren.

Thus, I find myself gradually slipping into baby talk and ask my grandson if he wants to do “neenee” as I normally call it or “zhopi zhopi ” as his mother calls it. While I used to simulate a clock by clicking my finger nails together close to my daughter’s ears, I can’t do this anymore to my grandson because clocks no longer go “tick tock” as they silently keep time. Similarly, I can’t call the phone “tring tring” as I used to because it no longer is a simple phone with a simple ring but one which has all kinds of different ring tones for different people and different functions.

So while there are variations in vocabulary there are some words which I can still use like when my little fellow gets up, I ask him if he would like his snack of “appy” (apple sauce). And then after we’ve wiped our face we usually go for a walk in the garden where I point out to him the different “ caw caws”(crows) and “ “Cheeous” (sparrows).

Unfortunately there aren’t any “Miaow” around but he loves watching the pretty lady and her “Bhoo Bhoo” while she walks in her “tock tocks” (high heels). And as the cars whizz past by us, I can point out the different coloured “peem peems” while he goes “dhum dhum” and bangs away at the tray in his pram. Then we go up for a bit of “doodoo” after which we have our “toh toh” (bath) and spend the rest of the day playing with “Ellie” the stuffed Elephant, “Jirry” the giraffe, “Mou” the mouse and “Fini” the fish – animals which he will only see as stuffed toys in his room as zoos are soon going to be a thing of the past.

I often wonder why we indulge in Baby Talk? Do babies really understand that tock tock is a high-heeled shoe? Isn’t it equally unfamiliar as a stiletto? Isn’t the word “car” as unfamiliar to a child as is the word “peem peem”? And not only do we talk differently, but even our tone changes and it can be quite strange to hear a normally gruff and no-nonsense person suddenly break out into baby talk when confronted with a curly-haired, snub nosed, wide-eyed cherub who looks disdainfully while the adult indulges in baby talk.

Indulging in baby talk indiscriminately can become quite embarrassing as a friend of mine once found out. She was busy working in her kitchen when the door was pushed open. Expecting her two-year old, she immediately gushed “ yo maja Pappu” and turned a bright beetroot red when a huge big burly man carrying the gas cylinder showed up instead!

Needless to say, her child was never called Pappu again nor did she indulge in any more baby talk. So perhaps we should stop baby talk and use proper words instead so that babies grow up knowing the correct names for everyday objects.

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood