Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's Not "Hippopotamus" But It's a Start

Many years ago, I remember hearing about a first-time mother whose child uttered the word "Hippopotamus" at the obscenely young age of 6 months. Incredibly, she thought it was normal for her infant to use five-syllable words before he could even walk. Perhaps Baby Center's slightly-annoying-but-fairly-informative "track your child's development" weekly e-mails were not available back then. Still, I think that if my child ever interjected a "Hippopotamus" in between his ga ga goo gooes, I'd know he was gifted.

As it turns out, I'm pretty sure Little Guy is not a genius because when I say to him in a perfectly clear voice, "Hip-po-po-ta-mus", careful to enunciate every syllable distinctly, he looks at me with a blank stare and then inevitably squeals "DA DA DA DA DA DA!" at the top of his lungs and then stumbles off like a drunken sailor to tear the pages out of one of my magazines or eat dirt off the floor or some other such activity.

No, for Little Guy language acquisition will come at the normal speed, which is perfectly fine by me. And while I don't think Little Guy has to be on time with ALL of his milestones, I was kinda hoping he'd say a word (preferably mommy) by the time he turned one so that when I read the Baby Center e-mail that says "by the first birthday, the average child will likely use one to five words meaningfully," I could sit back smugly and check "talking" off our list.

No pressure on Little Guy or anything.

Yet, the first birthday had come and gone with not a "meaningful" word uttered.

Then last night, while strolling through our neighborhood on our regular evening walk, we passed a neighbor walking his dog.

"DAT! DAT!" Little Guy exclaimed as he hung over the side of his stroller, his eyes fixed intently on the dog passing us on the other side of the street.

"Oh, honey," I corrected. "That's a dog not a dat. Say dog, honey. Daaaaahg."
Several minutes later, Little Guy spied a cat making his way towards us from across the lawn.

"DAT! DAT!" he exclaimed again. "No sweetie, that's a cat. Say cat. Caaaaaht."
Hmmph, I thought. All this time spent labeling "dog" and "cat" over and over again every time we see one and he's still just making babble sounds.

And then it hit me.


It's a new word! Little Guy's word! And it means "little furry animal that walks on four legs and who I will squeeze the life out of pet excitedly if given a chance."

So anyway, I don't know what you think, but I think this just may qualify as Little Guy's first word.

Take that Baby Center.


Anonymous Meredith said...

Yeah for the first word.

Could "dat" be that, as in "I want that furry animal on four legs."

I found with mine I've found that the "real" language explosion starts about 2 years old.

5:08 AM  
Blogger metro mama said...


Cakes says "dak'. I interpret it as dog, cat, and duck, depending on the context.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Farm Girl said...

I was going with Meredith's theory, I was also thinking he was saying that. Speech is not necessarily a sign of intelligence though so he could still be a genius in disguise. He may start talking in complete sentences next week.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

How exciting!!!!!
You HAVE to check out this site... I saw it on Cool Mom Picks a few weeks ago and saved it for when my little guy decides to start talkin'

First Word T-shirts


5:29 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

That's my daughter's favorite word too! Cat = Dat, Dog = Dat, Fan = Dat, tree = Dat...

I prefer to think that she's speaking in sentences and she's really saying "What is that curious object, mother?" but she's so quick that it comes out as "Dat". A girl can dream.

6:32 AM  
Blogger J's Mommy said...

So cute - I think J's first word was mama, then ball, then cat, then cow. I wrote it down somewhere. If only I could find that baby journal!

8:21 AM  
Blogger virtualsprite said...

Whatever the word, the important thing to remember is that you can make sense of it. Brilliance is subjective. We just have fun teaching the ubergoober silly things like "Godzilla" so that we can do duets of that Blue Oyster Cult fave. Yep... kids are fun.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous krista said...

Or maybe "dat" is his way of saying "what's that?"

9:32 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Hooray! Yes, timeline schmimeline. My nephew is only just now speaking, sometimes words, sometimes full sentences that are pretty garbled, but for the longest time, he wouldn't talk. He refused. But you could just see it in his face, he GOT it. He just didn't want to use it. Now, you can't keep him from talking. And while some in the family were worried, fears have been allayed with his increasing vocabulary that his mother assured us would happen when he was ready. Yay for her for trusting her instincts.

And I'm a firm believer that baby words, even made up ones, are words themselves when they are used in context. Like a wubby for blanket. Wubby isn't in the dictionary, but I have several friends who had wubbies when they were kids.

As an aside, my father worked with my sister and I to use enormous words when we were young just for the sheer joy of hearing us use those words at 2 years old. I once corrected the lady standing next to us at the zoo who said, "Can you say elephant?" and I chimed, "Not elephant. Pachyderm."

9:38 AM  
Blogger Piece of Work said...

He IS a genius! Congratulations!

9:59 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yay! Cordy's first word was "Kiiii!", which also meant any furry animal, most likely a kitty or dog.

And hopefully you won't wait as long as I did to hear "mama". Cordy said it for the first time around 19 months. And she still doesn't say it often. I swear she's Mindy from Animaniacs: "OK lady, I love you, bye-bye!"

10:07 AM  
Blogger jennster said...

how do you know um, that your child isn't saying hippo in like indonesian or some other language?!?! SUPER GENIUS! lol

10:48 AM  
Blogger sunshinedaily4me_wuz_here said...

Dat is so cute!!!

10:58 AM  
Blogger lildb said...

CUTIE. cutie!!

*exhalation of delight*

p.s. what the frick does that frickin' babycenter know? I. hate. knowitalls.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

I'm with the others on the theory that Little Guy was actually saying "that."

My 4 yr old was a late talker. Now he has a spectacular vocabulary and doesn't shut up, but I still remember when he was 18 mos and we were in a coffee shop with our same age neighbor boy. When the neighbor boy left he wittily said "see you soon baboon." My son, the baboon, said "ba." I was crushed.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Great Day said...

My husband and I were talking about this very thing over the weekend. How kids make up or pronounce words their own way.

My girl meows when she sees any type of animal, large or small. She has even meowed at the horses in the field by grandma and grandpa's! Go figure!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Tasha said...

I always thought that I wanted my oldest to start talking right away...well now that she is 6, I am bound and determined NOT to teach my youngest 7.5 months how to talk. But Hey congrats to Lil Guy for a great achievement. :)

1:35 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Dat's a start Little Guy, Dat's a very good start!!

1:42 PM  
Blogger Catch said...

My brother did not talk until he was 3....however, he did graduate from college ....become a Leiutenent in the State Highway patrol. They will talk when they are ready! Just like my brother did!

I think Little guy was saying "that" and hes just getting started!!!!

1:53 PM  
Blogger Dirty Birdie said...

Dat is a perfectly acceptable first word. It's better than my little brothers which was "boobs."

2:18 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

What a smartie!


2:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Awww. See he's very smart. He's creating his own language.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Hmmm. Interesting theory you all have that "dat" is actually "that". Veeery interesting.... I hadn't thought of dat (sorry couldn't resist).

However, I only notice him using "dat" when he sees a small animal. For example, he also said "dat" when he saw a squirrel, but he doesn't say it to point to his toys or to food or anything.

Nevertheless, I accept the possibility that by "dat" he means "that".

I will have to observe him further to make a final determination on this. :)

4:38 PM  
Blogger Gingers Mom said...

That totally counts! Mommy's always know when it is truly a word. Good for him! Many kids, boys particularly, don't talk until well after 2. It all depends on the kid. But clearly, he is a genious!

4:50 PM  
Blogger Undercover Angel said...

That's so cute. My youngest son didn't really talk until he was two - but he's never stopped since.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

heheh I love that!!! Dat!! Perfect!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Verbal genius, I'd say. Working on descriptive efficiency. Very impressive.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Ha! Descriptive efficiency--love it!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...


I swear. Dat is dog and cat around here. Awesome! You solved the mystery.

8:46 PM  
Blogger K. said...

It definitely qualifies. And my lil guy is still at the stage where he is saying "DA DA DA" for everything. ;)

9:05 PM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

Great story...
It made me laugh...
And you have to keep this post for when he asks what his first word was.... as my daughter LOOOOOOOOOOVVVVes to go down memory lane.... as long as the memories are about our family folklore!

9:09 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

dat = that, usually, but your interpretation is much more interesting!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I had one that was so late talking I was about to have her tested.

Suddenly she started; in sentences and with reasonable enunciation.

Her sister, on the other hand, began jabbering early but wasn't understandable until she was at least three.

Didn't make a bit of difference once they were older.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous wrigley said...

congratulations on 'dat'! little guy should be jumping for joy. makes me excited about my guy's first word. he's just 6mos. so we're taking our time.

i like your blog look. ms.nello strikes again.:)

4:05 AM  
Blogger Knitting Maniac said...

Those first words ... they are wonderful things!

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Einstein who didn't start talking until he was, like five?? I, personally think Babycenter's got it all wrong.

Congrats to Little Guy's Big First Word!

4:50 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

That was me, C!! I don't know why it called me anonymous! I paid my dues with the word verification thingy. ugh, Blogger strikes again.

4:52 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Yeah, I was thinking maybe "dat" was "that!" Either way, still a definite first word!

6:26 AM  
Blogger Mega Mom said...

Yes, of course, maybe he IS a genius ;)

7:19 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Of course he is a genius!! I love "dat" :)

9:00 AM  
Anonymous mamatulip said...


Both Julia and Oliver said "num num" as their first word. It's what we say to them when it's time to eat -- like, "Oooh, have some num num's!" Just TRY and tell me it's not a word. G'head. Try. ;)

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Hmmm, so what will happen if you show him a squirrel? Small and furry but not a dog or cat? Dat would be interesting... ;-)

Hey, I'm working on that meme too -- hopefully by the end of the week.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Nancy, that's funny that you said that about the squirrel because he DOES say "dat" when he sees a squirrel. Further proof that my theory is correct! lol

1:56 PM  
Blogger ~d said...

T1j used to call the 'kitchen' the 'chicken'.

I am pouring the drinks, gurl. What choo want?

2:21 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

YAY! I have one who was (still is) ridiculously verbal. And I have another one who climbs everything. They're all so different.

BBC and WTE are FOS.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Tracie said...

dog+cat=very cute!!

I love it and I definately think it counts as a meaningful word!!

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Moobs said...

I'm sure your theory is correct, in which case your boy is neoligistic genius. However, should he ever spot a hippopotamus creeping up behind you you are screwed.

1:22 AM  
Blogger yogamama said...

And to think, just today I was letting Baby Center's timeline stress me out. What do you do with a two-month-old who barely coos (as "most" babies should do), but bears weight on her legs (as only a "few" babies do at her age)? The only possible explanation I can find is that I'm raising Bam-Bam.
Anyway, glad to know I'm not the only mom who is a bit disillusioned with Baby Center.

7:43 PM  

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