Monday, December 15, 2008

False alarm as first-word drama begins

The grand occasion dawned dramatically - and then clouded over double-quick over its actual significance. One minute, Sonny was playing happily with his parents and grandmother. Just another day at the office. Then, suddenly, he began babbling, 'Papa, papa'.

Was this Sonny's first word? As absolutely nobody will remember, this blog had kicked off with a post in which the question of what the little fella's initial recognisable utterance might be received some prominence (click here to read). Now there he was, more than a week short of clearing eight full months, making a sound that seemed to settle the matter. But Mum, none too pleased that Sonny hadn't burbled, 'Mama, mama' - and convinced that some cosmic injustice was being perpetrated (given that she has spent far more time tending to our sprightly shoot) - quickly yanked out the referee's handbook. Well, she sort of made it up as she went along, but never mind that.

"He doesn't know what he's saying," she announced, after Sonny started 'Papa'-ing enthusiastically while feasting on a soft toy. "Everything is 'Papa' to him, so it doesn't count". True enough, Sonny has since been observed 'Papa'-ing into thin air. He's also still firing off long strings of nonsense-sounds, in the midst of which the occasional 'Papa' might be discerned: This suggests that his tongue and jaw just naturally form the ejaculation with no attaching of sense to it.

Ultimately, of course, it isn't really important what the little fella's first word is, or when it is that he utters it, so long as he goes on to acquire a decent vocabulary and the means to deploy it (merely parroting strings of real words would be utterly worthless). One swallow does not a summer make, and one word is but a peeping-through, rather a striding through, of the door to comprehension and communication. But we humans place a significant premium on 'first's, whether it's the winner of an athletic contest (and forget the second-place finisher even if he's only half-a-nose behind) or official discoverer of an unknown species of bird. You might even say it's programmed into us by society.

Still, the probable false alarm has given Mum and Pa added incentive to attend more closely to the little fella's brook-like flow of sounds. Since it could be months and months before an irrefutable 'First Word' instance finally emerges, a serious case of parental weariness can be confidently be predicted.

Wonder who will be the first to howl in frustration?