We are here for the love of language. We are here in response to Hyphen Mama's post about "pershy hate", which is so cute I have to show it to you:
................After Wynnie finished picking up toys
................in the playroom the other day she said,
................"Mommy, do you pershy hate me?"
................To which I replied, "No baby, but I do appreciate you."
How cute is that?!! I find it amazing how willingly children accept whatever phonetic sequence you give them. They just roll with it, just take it as they hear it.
Instead, being able to fully accept some strange new sound sequence is not so easy for me. It's hard for adults in general. We adults have well formed ideas of what's a possible word or sequence of sounds and what isn't. And we can't just stop knowing all that at will. It's hard to block out.
But young children don't have preformed linguistic filters for what's possible and what isn't. Clearing your throat could mean something, something like "Eat your cheerios." Why couldn't it, right? They have to sit back and listen and watch very carefully. To see what it is WE pay attention to. The stuff we don't react to must be meaningless...well ma'am, toss that out already! And they do.
But until it's clear that something (like throat clearing) means nothing, they don't rule it out.
For example, I wonder if Hypen Mama's daughter Wynnie thought of it as "pershy hate", with "hate" being the same "hate" we're thinking it is. Because what else could it be, right? Well, to a child just learning, it could be anything. It could be "hayit" possibly, or "h-eight" (long "a" sound, as in the number "eight"). It might not be the verb "to hate" that she hears when she strings those sounds together:
per-shee-h8. Then again, it might, but let's explore the first possibility anyway.
Here's an example: the term "Your Highness". Pretty simple:
high + ness. OK.
Except I always thought of it as "Your Hynace"...kinda like "furnace". To my ear, the first syllable ended with the "n", and the second syllable was a simple "us", like "hine-ous" or "hien-ace". Which makes no sense and I don't know how I could be that dumb, but whatever. It just sounded like a special word, unique, that meant "a royal person". They're so special and royal and important people, they have their own freaky word just for them. Again, anything goes when you're first hearing this stuff.
It never occurred to me that the term included the -ness suffix. (Doh.)
From here: "The suffix -ness is added at the end of an adjective to indicate the state, condition, quality or degree of something."
High-ness. Ok, makes sense. Royalty, kings and queens, high above us all. Gotcha.
So, we're agreed that "highness" means the state or condition of being "high".
Yeah, we're starting to come full circle back to the beginning of this post. When you think of the "state or condition of being high", do you think of Queen Elizabeth? Uh...not so much. At the moment, the first person I think of is poor Michael Phelps. His highness, Michael Phelps.
High-ness...not hynace! Seriously? And yet there are no high-ness jokes? Why in the world doesn't it get applied to people experiencing a high from drugs? I am so in the highness, dude. Ride the highness, my friend. Enjoy your highness. If I said, "Her highness won't last much longer", who would you think I was talking about, Queen Elizabeth or the stoner girl from homeroom?I learned about kings and queens and princesses, heard the phrase "Your Highness", when I was still very young, from children's fairy tales that were read to me. I can only conclude that before my language filters were fully formed, when I heard the words "Your Highness", the suffix ness hadn't quite registered on my linguistic radar.
Which really is okay, all things considered. Because for a kid, if you're young enough, anything is linguistically possible. Until your mom clues in to the mix-up and realizes what you're doing (except in my case, of course, not so easily detected) that it's NOT pershy-hate and it's not fun-TEST-icles, and she patiently (or not), maybe smirkingly, but always lovingly sets you straight.
Think how many more fun-TEST-icles and pershy-hates and hynaces would be stuck forever in adult brains if not for the parent's ever vigilant linguistic guidance.
Hat's off to Hyphen Mama and to Butterflyfish for their linguistic vigilance, and their awesome blogs. And...what the hey...hats off to Michael Phelps, even though I have no evidence of his linguistic vigilance, blogging prowess, or parenting skills. He's awesome too, disregarding his recent brush with highness.