After all, it’s a new year. A chance to put aside the previous year’s disappointments, setbacks, frustrating failures, endlessly escalating arguments, sunlight-devouring grudges, and temporarily blinding crimes of passion. (Technically, my crime was more like a misdemeanor of passion, but my attorney, Dave-o, has advised me not to talk about it at this time and in this particular forum.) A chance to start over with a clean slate full of hope, joy, and other intangible objects that are widely considered to be positive and good and so forth.
Here’s why I’m angry — I have a three-year-old niece. Yes, she’s a bundle of joy, an angel, one of God’s better people, etc. And now she’s talking all the time and expanding her vocabulary every day. But recently, after I returned home from a relaxing game of putt-putt with Dave-o and some of his other clients who are currently awaiting trial, she asked if I’d played “futt-futt.”
“You mean putt-putt?” I asked.
“Uh-huh,” she replied. “Futt-futt.”
Her parents and grandparents laughed. I contemplated smiling, but that was only because I thought she’d stop confusing the letters P and F on the third and, with any luck, final go-round. After she called my favorite competitive sport “futt-futt” for the 11th consecutive time, I couldn’t bear to look at her anymore. Away with you, child, until you can say something truly impressive, like “full scholarship” or “presidential pardon.”
You know what my niece’s first word was? “Dada.” No, she wasn’t referring to the early-20th-century art movement, though that would’ve been impressive. She was referring to her father. You know, like “daddy.”
But she didn’t say “daddy.” She said “dada.”
Here’s why I’m angry — “DADA” ISN’T A REAL WORD. Yet we praise our nation’s children for saying gibberish that’s almost like real words and then pretend like it’s actually recognized as proper English by Merriam and Webster, the one-name-only longtime companions who invented the dictionary. No wonder we’re all so screwed up — we’ve been told lies from day one! Or whatever day we started forming actual syllables that sort of combined to make actual words but not really. Day 447, maybe? I can’t remember that far back.
As an American culture and as a popular culture — although we’re certainly an unpopular culture if you ask certain other cultures these days — we need to stop perpetuating these postnatal falsehoods immediately.
We also need to buy something nice for Dave-o — his birthday is January 12. I was thinking of chipping in for a leather attaché case. Who’s with me?