Language is a tricky beast. Think about it. I’m typing characters, which are converted to document code, which are then converted to binary on/off switches, which are then uploaded- seemingly through air- to another machine. This machine has its own set of languages that it uses to interpret those on/off switches, switches it to another code, and that code plasters it – the words, the images, the amateur food porn instagrams- all over a ‘wall’ of my digitally created Social Media platform. Still then, that ‘wall’ is selective about what it shows- there are separate algorithms that decides who gets to see it and when, largely influenced by the application of large sums of digital money, another set of 1’s and 0’s that we won’t get into here. And that’s just the technical side of it. Let’s not even go into whether or not I bought the amateur food at Safeway.
The other problem is language itself, and this comes from a person who last week- completely enamored with a spot of free time, spent it at the library, and considered updating his “status” to “Fucking lucky librarians! This is AWESOME!” on his wall- I clearly love books, writing, and all the best things in life.
All that said, all language is just an iteration of a former language ( and that’s an extremely clumsy statement, but hence the problem) – it’s both a specific and precise set of tools used to mirror an image of a very intricate network of information processing (normally called ‘feelings in your brains’) and something that is subject to malleability. Meanings change, memes gain traction, the world turns, and we must keep up. At the same time, clichés are clichés for a reason- some things are always true, and no one has found a better way to distill the truth. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but if the shoe fucking fits, why waste another cottin’ pickin’ minute re-inventing the wheel? A penny saved might be a quaint sologigliasmish, but the point still stands.
All that said, it’s a wonderfully weird thing to watch this language thing from the ground up.
I have a 3-year old. In the beginning, I just felt like a sperm donor. She shat, slept, cried, and we plugged along through job problems, diaper decisions, and the usual. Not much input from her for the first 15 months. Then….speech.
Watching the process of a new brain make language connections has been ….educational. And by ‘educational’ , I mean both fascinating and terrifying in equal measures.
Take the moon- she loves it. On evenings where it sets over the house across the street, about every-ahem- once in a blue moon, we watch it in our pyjamas, at least until the fascination wears off ( about 45 seconds ) and then commence deliberations about how many insipid episodes of animated hamsters we are allowed to watch this evening. Still, it has always been an object of fascination for her, and I’m watching the language she uses to describe it change- and it’s a steady variable. Watch.
The first time she described the moon- and there must have been many ‘first times’ as she glommed onto words, descriptions, ways to make your tongue and mouth say ‘moon’, but I hadn’t had much sleep at the time, so I don’t remember- she was in the swing at the playground. We were doing the obvious thing, and I was 20-40% mentally occupied with the notion that all the moms were casting disparaging glances at me for swinging my kid too high, too young which says a lot about the Y chromosome. Still, she was up, the moon was up, and she saw it.
“What’s that cookie?”
The moon was full that afternoon, and since we had a routine- I would always put her in the swing with her precious face-skin away from the setting sun- the view was always the same.
“That’s the moon!” I explained.
“Is that my moon?” she asked.
“Yes, sweetie, it’s your moon.” I replied. Insert whatever “wrapped around her tiny little finger” joke you need to about me, ‘cause it’s fucking true.
Now, every dad goes through phases. Pre-kid, it’s “What?!? You’re pregnant?!?” It’s the first, simplest one, and rather stupid- you did stick it in after all. What were you expecting? Still, the kid is born, words come, bonds form, relationships begin to gel, the specifics of which aren’t always noticed by dads- Y chromosome- until they take their kids out onto the playground, often and repeatedly. You get into habits. You hit the swings. Every 29.5 days, the moon repeats itself, and the kid sees it.
But the moon goes through phases.
“Daddy, that’s my Moon!” she exulted.
We were on the swings, me feeling confident and masculine about shoving her and rubberized safety gravity harness into the pre-school stratosphere, probably a bit more forcefully than I should have, but I wanted to impress. Whom, I’m not sure, but probably borne of a need to progress.
“There!” She pointed.
“Yes, that’s your moon!”
In my mind and memory, I saw her brow furrow. If I apply physics, it would tell me that I probably couldn’t actually see her thought processes on an oscillating swing, but fuck that noise, I know my kid. She was puzzled, and I saw what was coming.
“Daddy….my moon is broken!”
To her, half of it was gone- to me, I felt the earth tremble over code and language she didn’t have yet- ‘waxing and waning’ weren’t options. The she plucked that impossible heart string.
“Daddy, can you fix it?”
…Should I say “In about 2 weeks?”