Pirates, Yarrr! Or, The Miracle of Idiomatic English

So, Chestnut has taken a magical leap forward this summer, and is
burning through books, reading and reading and reading,
and it is oh so gratifying to watch her go. We're still at the point
where her reading is a little bit transparent to me (sorry to use the
hideous business term), and I get to be near her when she reads and see
what she's doing. Soon, I know, she will get farther away and be
reading books I don't know about and can't keep up with. And I am very
pleased for her that this is her excellent future, but still, I will miss this.
Such as: she took out about six Magic Treehouse books from the library,
and got through one on the subway on our way home, then one more when I
was getting dinner ready. The next day I asked her which one she was on
and she said, "I had to stop reading the pirates one. Too scary."
"You know, they're all very careful not to be too scary. If it seems
scary it's probably about to have something get less scary."
she said, "but it was all scary like they had knives in their teeth."
And the poked her fingers in her teeth. "That would really hurt."
So we had a little demonstration of how they pirates carried their
knives in their jaws, not stuck between individual teeth, and why they
might want to do this (hanging onto the shrouds, sword-fighting, etc
etc) and everything got all straightened out and she could finish the
book without having the horrible creepy feeling that they have knives
slashed up into their gums.


But it made me think, too, that most future misunderstandings are going
to occur far out of my reach. And I know, I know, she'll figure things
out, and what she doesn't figure out now she will eventually (I still
mispronounce Penelope and it took me years to figure out how epitome
was said), but I will miss these little confusions, this part where I
get to hold her metaphorical hand through the first steps.

7 thoughts on “Pirates, Yarrr! Or, The Miracle of Idiomatic English

  1. This made me laugh and remember when I thought the word colonel was pronounced phonetically — I think I was eighteen when I said it out loud as someone told me they thought I meant “kernel.”


  2. That reminds me of the time we were eating at Black-Eyed Pea (fancy!) and Lucy was reading the menu. She looked up at me, horrified, and whispered, “Mama. They have FRIED ORCA here!”


  3. I was reading the Grinch to my 4-year-old hte other day, and we were reading the part about all the things about Christmas that the Grinch hated, and we turned the page to the lines about “and then they would do what he liked LEAST of all….” [sing sing sing] and she said, “Excuse me, Mama. How come he hates everything about Christmas but he LIKES the singing?” and I’m like “huh?” and then I realized she didn’t get the idiom “least of all” and just heard “he liked….’ and I had to explain. And I’ve read it to her 10,000 times and I never would have known she was hearing it that way if she hadn’t interrupted…..
    I LOVE those things. And you are right, it is sad not to get to see those inner workings anymore when the kiddos get a bit older. But my 9-y-o does still say to me sometimes while reading, “Mom, what’s [spelled-out-word]?” and I get to tell her….
    By the way, I still think that when something is disgusting, the other word for it shoudl be spelled “groce” like grocery store. Ah, the things we think when we’re little!


  4. This post made me smile for so many reasons! I’m so happy that my kids are still at the age where I can waltz right in and clear up their fears and misunderstandings, and I know it’s not going to last. Plus, I too had trouble with “epitome,” which I pronounced “epi-tome” (like an epi pen and a really substantial book) for years. That’s what you get for being a kid who reads more than she talks.
    And finally, did you know that September 9th is Talk Like A Pirate Day? That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this post. And I’m totally celebrating that one with the kids!


  5. Last night, I was reading Madeline’s Rescue to Brynn and she interrupted me and said, “I don’t like this Madeline book.” I asked why not and she said, it’s so confusing that she’s still there after she died. I was really confused and backtracked through the whole book. “Madeline would be dead but not for a dog who kept her head.” I spent ten minutes explaining what that meant.


  6. What I am loving right now is that my daughter’s brain absorbs words in absolutely charming mispronunciations. I wish you could hear her say “Goliath.” (GOH-lee-ath)As she races through books, at least I have little moments where I remember she’s only 8, and has miles of vocabulary ahead of her. 🙂


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