Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beanie meets Saussure

Recalled from a conversation with Beanie, age 6 and 3/4 on the eve of Christmas Eve, an example of parenting as an anthropologist:



"I always wanted to know: Who made up languages? Because all languages are made up."

"Wow, Beanie." Is this supposed to become a teaching moment on the concept of arbitrariness?

"So, that must mean that somebody had to make up all the languages."

"That is a question that a lot of people have tried to answer."

"Do you think it was one person? How could we ever know? What would be the first word that someone made up?"

"How about we make up our own words?"

Giggle. So cute. "Dr. Seuss makes up his own words."

"Is that language?"

"I guess so because it's made up."

Hmm. "So, what if I start calling what you call an apple a 'snargleboffin'?"

Giggle. Even cuter. Sigh. "No. Because what you call a - what did you call it?"


"What you call a snargleboffin is what I call a boffagargle in my language."

"If I make up my own words and you make up your own words, then how are we supposed to understand each other? So, I think languages are not made up by one person."

"It has to be more than one person. Maybe two."


"No." Giggle. "Boffagargle."

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