Shirl Sirkar Squirrel [Screeeeeeeech]

Four grandchildren (granddaughters actually), four totally different approaches to learning language. Er, that would be my parents’ grandchildren, not mine. If I need a grandchild fix, I borrow C*Q*L.

A couple years ago I was galumphing along through the mini-woods behind The Landfill when I encountered an emergent speaker of the complicated language we call English (her first language, to be clear). And her parents. They were watching a squirrel. I asked the child what aminal she was watching and her dad (rather disdainfully) answered for her, “It’s a squirrel. [you stoooopid old bag]”.

Alas, I was not asking *him*. I was asking his cute little daughter. In part it was a friendly, innocent question. In part, I was doing a little informal research, being curious about how this little tot pronounced the word “squirrel”.

I am intimately familiar with the trajectories my own children took when learning to speak our language and I spent enough time with my nieces as small children to get a pretty good idea of their trajectories.

So one day back in the Jurassic Age, all four of The Commander’s granddaughters were hanging around here at the Landfill for a day while their parents had business to attend to. 2-year-old Pengo (the youngest) was an emergent English speaker. It was a beautiful warm day and we were all outside and I left my very competent 6-year-old Lizard Breath “in charge” just long enough for me to BlueTerletP. In general P does NOT take me long wherever I am. If you grow up using an outhouse, you can P PDQ.

Suddenly I heard a BLOODCURDLING SCREAM from outside. What the he…? Is everyone all right? I had been gone for 30 seconds. But that’s all it takes for something awful to happen to a small child. What do I tell my brother and his wife? I ran outside and… Oh, it’s okay moom, Pengo saw a squirrel.

Okay, family lore here. Words for squirrel at about age 2 or so:

Granddaughter #1 (Lizard Breath): shirl
Granddaughter #2 (Valdemort): sirker
Granddaughter #3 (Mouse): Squirrel (perfectly enunciated, thank you very much)
Granddaughter #4 (Pengo): SCREEEEEEECH!

I don’t remember how each of these kids pronounced most individual words but shirl/sirkar/squirrel/screeeech are words that I remember we kept track of (The Commander and I at least). All four of these kids learned to talk “on time”. Mouse and Valdemort were both very early talkers. Lizard Breath practiced sentences privately before trying them out in “public” (aka, The Landfill Chitchen). Pengo just plain did whatever she wanted to do, loudly if necessary. I remember my brother calling her “foghorn” when she was two or whatever. O brother, where art thou?

And here is Twiggy, the water-skiing shirl/sirkar/squirrel/screeeech. He was at the Detroit Boat Show yesterday. The GG porterized himself by driving the Porters down to the show. The water skier is a real shirl/sirkar/squirrel/screeeech. He has a trainer. His motor bote is droven by a couple of stuffed shirls/sirkars/squirrels/screeeech.

2 Responses to “Shirl Sirkar Squirrel [Screeeeeeeech]”

  1. Margaret Says:

    It is fascinating how differently children learn to talk. For Ashley, my parents were gaga and papa, while for Alison it started out drahma/papa. They were both quick talkers though, as girls often are.

  2. Sam Says:

    Viva rodentia! (I have VERY mixed feelings about rodentia…!)