The Fluidity of Words

My two-year-old is bilingual. He speaks English, as well as a foreign language of his own creation. He’s remarkably fluent in the latter, though the majority of what he says is understood by no one except for God and his angels, as well as the occasional interpretation by my five-year-old (I suspect, however, that my five-year-old interprets for his own advantage: “Mom, Jesse says that he wants me to eat his chocolate.”).

My tw0-year-old’s English vocabulary is limited, comprised of: no, uh-oh, fire, five, and truck. However, even with these limitations, he can convey a fairly rich breadth of meaning. No, for example, can be used to mean everything from the traditional negative, yes, I’m getting hungry, or I would like either a cookie, a handful of chips, or some other carb-laden snack. Also, he can use the word no in a melodic, attitudinal way which can either communicate scorn, appreciation, irritation, or contentment.

For him, words are fluid. And so they should be. He’s still figuring out the world, what things mean, and why they mean what they mean. But, when we’re older, when we’ve had enough years to acquire definitions and subtexts and connotations and store them away in the warehouse of our mind, should the meaning of words still be fluid?

One thought on “The Fluidity of Words”

  1. I enjoyed this post. Good question. At times, to be convincing, there seems to be a right word for a particular instance, but I like to think words can be fluid. In the artistic use of words – in poetry, for example – words can take on new meaning. What is life without creativity, and why should language be exempt from the creative process? If musical notes can continually be combined and manipulated in new and interesting ways, why not words?

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