My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes, Take 3

I think my niece is channeling Bart Simpson. No, she isn't telling anyone to not have a cow, or (thankfully) engaging in any of the only-funny-in-cartoons behaviors of that yellow kid.*

What she has begun doing lately is using one of Bart's expressions when something unexpected happens that she doesn't like... f'rinstance, when she accidentally poured a cup of soda into her mommy's lap at dinner the other night.

AJ let out a yelp (and my sister's developed some amazingly fast reflexes; she managed to dodge most of the liquid with zero advance notice at close range thanks to all the practice her daughter's given her), there was a quick scramble for napkins, and then in the momentary quiet that followed we all heard my niece's cute little voice:

"Oh, man!"

I mean, the kid nailed it; right timing, right usage, right inflection, even the perfect tone of voice.  Unfortunately, I think we've cemented this particular expression into her repertoire, because all of us burst out laughing -- even my slightly soggy sister -- and proceeded to exchange oh mans back & forth with the little one. (Dude, you gotta be more careful, she's just now stopped using "shoot" and that other word that sounds similar but is a lot less socially acceptable -- and it only took her hearing that once to pick it up.)

We're not sure where she got this from; AJ remembered the lady who ran the previous daycare program using it sometimes, so the best theory holds her as the source. In any case, the Pipsqueak keeps surprising us with new vocabulary that she not only pronounces correctly (most of the time) but that she groks fully on the first try... from her first "happy happy!" when we did the first family "love sandwich" group hug, to a quiet little "shoot!" when she bumped her head to telling me, "it's up there!" when I couldn't find the TV remote, and so on right up to her perfectly inflected & used, "oh, man!"

New words (as mentioned in my previous post) sometimes get run into the ground when she first learns them, but I think that's just her way of playing with the new sound and somehow, almost magically, figuring out exactly what it means and how to use it.  Watching her absorb language and meaning so quickly is super-reassuring to me; 50% of her entire lifespan was spent in an environment where even the basic phonemes that made up the language were different from anything she's hearing with us now, and I was worried that she might be left behind by her peers (at least at first) in respect to her ability to communicate. (I remember AJ had a hard time kicking her "Spanglish" around the same age, growing up in Chile in our English-speaking household with most of the surrounding world speaking Spanish.)

Maybe I've weighted effects of the Pipsqueak's entire first year being in an environment totally lacking in English sounds too heavily, or the effect of all of us working to help her learn English too lightly... or maybe I've just underestimated the capabilities of this pint-size dynamo who's turned the whole family happily on its head.

Or maybe, as a good friend who's the mother of two and an experienced elementary school teacher said to me the other night, I'm just easily amused by the normal path of human development.

(But I think I'll stick to thinking my niece is pretty special. <g>)

* "The Yellow Kid," a character created by Richard F. Outcault in 1894, is generally regarded as the first truly famous cartoon character in the U.S., and was the first to be involved in modern-style character-based merchandising. Appearing in several papers of the time, the character's shirt was colored bright yellow when not printed in black & white, giving the character his name; public reference to the cheap, usually sensationalistic "yellow kid papers" eventually morphed into our current term, "yellow journalism" -- and some sources say he provided some of Bart Simpson's genes. By the way, when the Yellow Kid's sometimes violent antics began to fall out of favor, Outcault created a new character that's with us to this day: Buster Brown!

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