Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Ollie Coins a Phrase


Yesterday was summer (it comes but once a month), and so we grabbed the ever-ready pool bag that sits permanently and hopefully next to the front door and made for the Burg’s rather lovely, tree-shaded swimming-pool. I chose to put my swimming costume on before I left, because lax though I have become in Germany about body issues, I didn’t fancy stripping publically, or having to baby whisper three kids in a minute changing room (have done that; won’t do it again). We leave for the pool, with me already in costume. Ollie turns to me and says,

“Mama, you wearin’ your soggy?”

I did in fact spend much of the next four hours being soggy, either soggy in the pool or soggy out, but I think my little fella meant “cozzie”, which is the South African contraction for “swimming costume”. I like “soggy” though; I may have to keep it.

(I love language acquisition. I find it adorable. When Daisy was about the same age as Ollie, she coined a good one. Instead of saying “cuddle” or “hug”, she would ask for a “cuggle”. To this day, we still cuggle.)

Meanwhile, Ollie is acquiring German. His version consists of very long sentences, of which only the odd word is discernible. He is not shy, and accosts big kids at the pool, and then converses with them Germanically while they look at him, confused. A typical conversation might go:

Ollie: Nein! (Diverse Germanic sounds) Meine Bagger! (Germanish) Nein, kind.

Child: —

Ollie: Ich und meine Mama (more Germanish) schwimmen (Germanigook) Daisy.

Child shrugs shoulders and departs.

Ollie is completely convinced he is speaking comprehensible German. At the moment it sounds like German, it contains pieces of German, and if you wrote it down it might look like German. It is excellent mimicry of the sounds of the language, which is what he started doing with English when he was about one. Perhaps he’ll call his Badeanzug a “zuggie”.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

17 thoughts on “Ollie Coins a Phrase

  1. My son, when he was young, used to say Luftkaboom for Luftballon and Zugzeug for Flugzeug.

    They are inventing language not learning it, aren’t they?

  2. Please will you ask Daisy if I may borrow ‘coggle’? I think it’s wonderful.

  3. That stage is so adorable. Hungry boy still says (at 4) “bednight story” – I’ve started saying it too, because I find it so cute. I’m so jealous of your kids bilingual education – I just wish I could get my act to gether and figure out how to expose them to a language.

  4. My stomach does look soggy in my cozzie, so sweet little Ollie has got it right!

  5. We have huggles in our family, no soggies so far though. We’re almost past that wonderful stage of cute new words but have been borrowing from Catweazle with electrickery taking over the family vocabulary until we can’t remember the right word any more.

  6. Sometimes A hears me speak Spanish, and so she strings together a couple of random sounds with a rolled “r” and tells me she is speaking Spanish too. But at least she tries, right?

  7. Lia, they are indeed inventing it, refreshing it and making it so lovely.

    Ann, Daisy is prepared to share “cuggle” with you!

    Ms Penguin, it’s difficult in Australia isn’t it? In South Africa, we heard (and still hear, when we are there) many different languages. I’m hoping that my lot will springboard quickly to third and fourth languages.

    Kit, family vocabularies are rather good, aren’t they? Playing with language and giving everyone a sense of belonging are two good things.

    Ms Mama, I agree. It’s great that she tries and it’s a sign that she could learn it quite easily if that was possible. The willingness and the ability to mimic are two important stages for kids.

  8. that is so sweet! Every time (well, okay, Almost every time) you write about your kids I want to run out and get pregnant. I suspect, though, you just make it look easy…:-)

  9. My girls used to demand cuggles when they were little – over 20 years ago.

    The eldest one came up with several neologisms which I now wish I’d written down as I can’t remember all of them. Broad beans are still known as frog beans in our house.

  10. The soggy sounds very apt! I can’t remember most of my boys baby words. I wish I had written them down or that I could just remember.

  11. My younger one, before talking properly, used to have a wonderful line in babbling. It was totally unintelligible to us but but he put full meaning into the sound.

    I too love the words children create – we still eat bawsterries with our cream – but do take heed of my tale of woe. My father adored our own version of words, one of which was hopgrassers. I can remember coming home from school in a fury with him, having discovered the correct word – in school – in a lesson – in front of the whole class, but I was so convinced that my dad must be right… The shame.

    Saying that, there may be a blind spot in our family. It took several moments before I realised what was wrong with a “bednight” story.

  12. Soggy is a good one, because it does get soggy in the water! I think it’s better than cozzie! Kiko is still at that stage with English where he will chatter on importantly and I have no idea what he’s saying… only that usually it involves cars and sirens.

  13. Soggy is just so perfect! He is funny. My British family have always said cozzie too, strangely. But then my father also calls his packed lunch ‘nosh’ too… there is alot of cross fertilisation there, don’t you think? I just love etymology..

  14. I always feel so sorry for children when they reach that age at which they can obviously understand everything being said to them but haven’t quite yet acquired the skills to make themselves understood. I’ve seen the frustration in the eyes of many a two-year-old. Good for Ollie that he’s just speaking on in “German,” assuming everyone can understand him. I think it shows a great strength of character.

  15. It’s a fabulous stage – dudelet (3.5 yrs) informed me yesterday that in “ancient days” (ancient is his word of the moment), coffee and tea were called cot and tay. I have no idea where that came from.

  16. Soggy is an adorable word.

    The weirdest creative use of language my son had was “buttbaul”, last year when he made the connection between his bottom, and what comes out of it. 🙂

  17. How fascinating that he is picking up on “Germanness” in sounds and tone, if not actual vocabulary. Children are amazing mimics.

    I can’t think of any neologisms right now, but my son does pick up words and phrases that I can tell he really savors. The latest favorite: “fish feathers!” as an expression of disdain or doubt, along the lines of “pshaw” or “phooey.”

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